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This message recounts the story of man from Cain and Abel to Abraham and the birth of the Israelite nation. Along the way, Todd explains how sin grew, and how the Old Testament foreshadowed the birth and death of Christ.
Why The Bible Can Be Trusted
Why There is Hope
Why The Church
Why Change is Possible and Necessary
Why All the Passion
Why There is the Law
Why the Jews
Why We Are Here
Why There is Evil
Why the Story You Live in Matters
We're doing a little series called Why. Maybe some of you guys are wondering right now, "Why did we just sing a song about half a heart tattoo?" There's a reason that is the number one genre of music in our country. It's because it tells a story. Country music tells stories that reflect on all of us, that resonate with our hearts deeply.
Chances are, there are not very many folks with China red, outlined in black, with half a heart (if you're female) on your left shoulder or right shoulder if you're male. There is probably not a single soul in this room who has not had somebody woo them and seduce them in this world. Something or someone who has called our heart to them, promising that if we wed ourselves to them or to it that we would be full, complete, loved, and satisfied, only to find out just a week or two later that it was a false promise, a false hope.
We are left with a mark on our life that we try and cover with powder room lies and with jackets so that no one else can see the flaw in our life, the hurt, the broken heart that is there because we gave our heart to a false lover.
We are in the middle of a little series that tells the story of God and his desire to love you in the way that you want to be loved. We are all walking through this earth, some of us in different forms of bars, hoping that we would meet somebody there. We are looking for some thing, some purpose that would make our hearts whole, that would give us joy, that would give us the significance, meaning, and glory that we were created to live in.
There is another one here that seeks to pull us away from that God to follow after his deceptive ways that sometimes in their immediacy resonate with us in their promise of adventure and pleasure but in the end leave us scarred, marked, and with half a heart. The story of Scripture is the story of a God who is almost irresponsible in his longing and love for you that he pursues you and wants you to have intimate fellowship with him.
He calls you, not out of his loneliness, for we've already discussed the fact that God has eternally dwelt in the context of love and community and satisfaction with Father, Son, and Spirit. We've explained where evil came from in this world God has created us into. Before he created this world, before Genesis 1, the Scriptures tell us there was another creation, a creation of the angelic realm, creatures who God also loved who were specifically designed by him to be in his presence and to be satisfied in his glory.
There was a rebellion in the heavens. There was a coup. There was one who said, "I want glory my way. I don't want to share in the glory of God. I want the glory that I seek on my own. I want to become the center of the story. I want other angels to worship me. I don't want to be a reflection of God's greatness. I want to be that which others perceive as great."
In this great rebellion we find out, the Scriptures tell us, God didn't ultimately destroy the evil one and those who followed him in that moment. It would've clearly established in that time that God was sovereign and great and that he carried the biggest stick, but the question of whether or not God was ultimately the definition and the height of goodness would've still been out.
The case could've been made that he was the strong one, but is he the lover? If Lucifer would've had his way and he would've been allowed to shine on his greatness, would he have been seen to be more good? God cast him out of the presence of himself. In order to reestablish that he was clearly good and worthy of your whole heart, he created earth. He created another world, if you will.
On that world, he spoke into existence something that never before had been in the existence of creation. He created one who would bear his image. One who had intellect, will, and emotion like the angels but had something the angels did not have: an image that reflected the glory and greatness of God, partly in the fact that we were given dominion to rule over.
In relationship with God and the adventure of life and love with God as we enjoyed God in the paradise that he created for us, we were to glorify God by ruling over this world as God rules over all the world. In the midst of this world that God created, there was a villain. There was one who wanted to steal our hearts, who promised us as we moved in and out of Eden that there is life elsewhere.
He challenged us to question the Word of God, the consequences of rejecting the Word of God, the justice of God and, ultimately, questioning the fact that God was the perfect lover. He promised us a greater life. He promised us greater joy, greater freedom, greater fulfillment, saying, "Just become the center of your story. Challenge God in his goodness. Don't believe that God can give to you the difference between life and what's not life. You decide on your own what is life and what is not life."
God planted a test of our love in the garden represented by a tree. On this tree, God said, "Don't eat of that because the day that you eat of that, you're showing that you don't love me. When you give your heart to another, when you decide that there is life outside of faith with me, relationship with me, trust in me, obedience to me, then you will suffer the consequences of the lover that you choose."
At its core, rebellion is when you give your heart to another. We talk about a word in church called sin. We sometimes dumb down sin to violations of rules and regulations. God sees sin as adultery of the heart, the highest form of treason. There is nothing on this earth which even approaches the pain of being betrayed by one who promised that they would love you only to find you with a half a heart tattooed on your arm that is a constant reminder of the betrayal that fell upon you.
Let me just explain what we're trying to do right here. We're trying to talk you through the story of God, give you an understanding of God's effort to reveal to you the greatness of who he is. We just sang a song that we want to see God high and lifted up, shining in the light of his glory. The way for God to be high and lifted up, shining in the light of his glory is for you to know him in the midst of his story.
It's trite to say that history is his story, but the fact of the matter is history as we know it is God's story of revealing his goodness and greatness to you, the lover of your soul who wants intimacy with you. God is not just some transcendent entity that you have to pay homage to through tithe and taxes, through some feigned surrender.
God is a lover who wants intimacy with you. To give your heart to anything but him is the treason which separates us from him and brings the consequence of being separated from the one who is full of goodness and life, which is wickedness and death. God is begging us to lift him up in the story that he reveals himself in as the hero who rescues lovers who have been stolen away by a false lover who has left them captive and feeling used and unlovable.
God comes crashing back in again and again and again and again to say, "I love you. I will redeem you. I will forgive you, but give your heart to me. In giving your heart to me, take the means of grace which I give you to protect yourself from being seduced again by the false lovers in this world who seek only to hurt me by hurting you."
See, that's the story. In the weeks past, I know for a fact that there have been some folks out there when I talk about the story we're living, somebody leaned over to their friend and said, "What story is he talking about?" "He's talking about the Bible." We don't think about the Bible in this way, do we? We think of the Bible as some rule book that will imprison us.
As a kid, I can remember when I was forced to go to church. I tell folks that I as a young child had a drug problem. I did. Every Sunday, my dad drug me to church. For us, it was just a Sunday kind of thing. We just went there. We paid our little tax of boredom and then got the fat out of Dodge and didn't mention God again until the next time we were obligated by society to go.
All I knew is in that place we went; there was the biggest stinking rule book I had ever seen that this guy read from in a very dry voice in a language that I was not familiar with. I'd sit in there and I'd look around at those people and I'd go, "Is this getting you? Because it isn't getting me." I have rules at home. I have rules at school. I have rules at sports. None of the books that I have to follow the rules in are as big as that sucker that guy reads from every week.
When I'm big enough to join a club, this isn't the one I'm in. Because I didn't know the story. I didn't know it wasn't a rule book. It was God's effort to lift up the light of his glory. That he loved me. How about if I told you this: the word gospel means good news. What if I told you that I have some good news for you?
No longer do you need to fear the evil Shelob because their hypnotizing presence is being weakened significantly by the phial of Galadriel. All of the wickedness of Sauron still builds in the east. Your mission to carry the ring to Mount Doom is secure. As long as you cling to Sting and wisely use the glittering phial you will be safe. Keep on following Sméagol. For now, make your way past Cirith Ungol. You'll be okay.
Does that stir your heart? I don't have a clue what the lead singer of The Police is doing trying to deliver a ring to some mountain called Doom. It makes no sense to me. I read that and I go, "Someone needs to help me with this." Those of you who are friends of J.R.R. Tolkien and have seen any part of the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings recognize that. Do you not?
I don't. I haven't read the book. I didn't even read the CliffsNotes. I just copied off of Wendy Wyan. I didn't go see the movies. I read this, and I thought, "What's that story that talks about treachery, that talks about hope, that talks about good rising up and quashing evil got to do with me? I don't know any of the characteristics."
Sometimes when you sit down with folks and they open up the story that is our Bible and they talk about how Jesus has had a major conflict with the "Far-ee-sees" and all this other stuff, you go, "This is confusing to me! All these names and labels." We had one of those classes that Scott was talking about up here that we want to welcome people in.
They were talking last week about the story of Noah, like everybody knew who Noah was. Like everybody knew who Sméagol was. This young lady who was not from our culture raised her hand and she said, "Excuse me. I don't know the Noah. Who is he? I don't really understand when you say Old Testament. What's Old Testament?"
We assume so much sometimes about how people understand a story. I had no idea how to pronounce any of these words. I know now that it's Sméagol and Sauron because I called somebody who is a freak about J.R.R. Tolkien and Lord of the Rings. So I wouldn't embarrass myself and my J.R.R. Tolkien reading I said, "How do you pronounce 'Far-ee-see'?" They said, "It's Pharisee. That's how you pronounce it."
So many times we impose upon people this need to know our story and the fact that there's good news. That's our story. The good news is Jehovah loves you. Through your faith in the Messiah, you can go up to the holy mount of God, Jehovah-jireh who provides for you all things and allow you forgiveness and completeness and will deal with your heart that Lucifer has crushed and stolen and delivered over to death.
People go, "Okay. Explain to me, please. How do I know this God is real? How do I know he loves me? How do I know this wasn't just some novel invented by men? How do I know this isn't myth? The story of evil destroying my life rings true. The story that I need hope resonates with my heart. Tell me how I can know this God. Tell me who this Messiah (whatever that Hebrew word means) is and why I should trust him." That's what we're doing.
In Genesis, chapter 3, we saw where the villain who was on this earth when we were created stole our hearts and got us to deny the Word of God, scoff at the justice of God, and mock the goodness of God by saying we can find better good somewhere else. We saw where God in Genesis 3, verse 15 reestablished the fact that he was still sovereign.
When he revealed to the incarnation of Satan in the form of a serpent that which his judgment would be. He said, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.""You will make him stumble, but he will rise again and he will destroy you."
Who is he? He, we find out in Genesis 3, is a singular male who would come forth from the woman. He would ultimately allow that which has destroyed the woman and the world which she and the man lived in to be restored to a place where they could have intimacy with God again and all would be made new.
In Genesis, chapter 3, God is starting to lift up the light of his glory because even though those who he created to be intimate allies with him, to love him, gave their heart to another, God pursues them. They hide. They come up with their own system to cover their failure, their own jacket to cover their scarred heart and tattoo.
God says, "I reject that. Your fig leaves are not acceptable. Man's efforts to deal with his own rebellion will never work before me. Innocent blood must be shed." God introduces the idea that there will be an ongoing conflict. Children of the Serpent, children of darkness, children of evil, people who give their hearts to their own will and way will war against children of Eve, children of the women, children who will leave their family of rebellion and move by faith underneath the protection and provision of God.
They will war with one another. There is conflict which is born early in the story. There is the promise of the Christ, which is the Greek way to say the Messiah, which in the English we call the Anointed One, the one who is singularly prophesied by God and will come one day. Though he will be struck by the Evil One because he is in constant warfare with him, he will stumble for a while. He will rise up again and will take away the victory and the sting of the Enemy. He will crush it utterly.
We find out that not only is there a conflict and a Christ; there is a covering. There is a substitutionary atonement principle that is introduced. "Your fig leaves don't work, but I will take innocent blood. I will take Fluffy who is walking through Eden unaware of the treason which has happened by the tree. Ask Fluffy to visit with me behind the bush, and I will sacrifice this innocent lamb in order that you might have your covering for your nakedness and your shame."
God shows that he loves humankind and will pursue humankind. He shows his justice is genuine. For a while, he puts away ultimate judgment in order that he might provide a way to allow the desire of his heart (humanity to live in relationship with him) to happen until such a time that the perfect Lamb is sacrificed to execute God's perfect justice. I get ahead of myself in the story.
You see the idea introduced in Genesis 3 of conflict, of hope in the Christ, and of God's provision for sin through innocent blood being shed that those he longs to have a relationship with might be covered and justified by it. Now, Genesis 4. In Genesis 4, we have the introduction of the sons of Adam and Eve.
It says, "Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain…" Cain means begotten one. "…and she said, 'I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.'" She is excited. She knew of the prophecy of God, that there would be one who would come forth from her loins who would give her victory over that which scarred her.
It doesn't take her long to realize that which comes from the seed of sin, from the seed of man through a woman, is corrupt. If you want some good theology lessons, just get around a baby. You will find out that they are not sweet little innocent morally blank slates. They are corrupt from the get go. They will spit up on you.
They will cry and let you know they want things on their time and their way. They have no problem diving after that which gives them pleasure and food and letting the waste of it pour out all over you from any orifice that they have to project it. They couldn't care less about what it does to you. It's about relieving them.
If you don't have those young ones slowly shaped by morality and wisdom, they will grow up to continue to seek their own will and their own time. They will do whatever they need to do and use whatever means, whether it's crying or aggression or anger, to get what they want when they want it. They don't care what kind of excrement is left on other people if they are not, by grace, led to live in a way that is contrary to their nature.
Eve understood right away that wherever this hope was going to come from, it was not going to come from the seed that Adam was going to place inside of her that the two of them in sin would bring forth together. No, that is why in verse 2 she gave birth to another guy. His name is Abel, which means vanity. "This is crazy. Cain is just bringing me heartache. I'm sure Abel will too. I'm not sure where this Deliverer will come from, but probably not from these guys."
The idea here though is something is begun to be revealed to us even in what these two children pursued. Because God is still sovereign over this story and is going to show you that he is going to work to reveal the light of his glory. Abel, we are told, was a keeper of the flocks. Abel pursues that which God created man to pursue: to give dominion and rule over the earth. Abel pursued as a shepherd that which God called him to be. One who is sovereign, who rules over others and manages this earth to bring provision to them.
Cain, on the other hand, pursued to toil against the curse. He said, "It won't be as bad as God says it will be. I will make it do. Even though no longer am I in Eden and no longer is the fruit brought forth easily to me, I can still make it happen." You find these two boys both understand that to live they must have a relationship with God.
They bring offerings to God, but they do it different ways. One does it by showing his faith in the system that God introduced in Genesis, chapter 3. The other says, "I will show up before God and give God what I want to give God when I want to give God what I want to give God." Let me show you this. Genesis chapter 4, verse 3.
"So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground." You might go, "That's what Cain had. He was a farmer so he brought some ears of corn, some tomatoes, and some carrots. What's wrong with that?" I'm going to show you. "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…"
Now when you look at other sections of Scripture that talk about this and even as you are going to continue with me here, you're going to see that the reason that God did not have regard for Cain's offering is because Cain's offering was not offered in faith. He brought to God what he thought God needed.
"This is what I do. This is who I am. This is the works of my hand, and if that isn't good enough for you, then stick it! God, I know that we've offended you somehow. I know that you're great." God doesn't want merely (we're going to find out) to be paid back something for the way that he has been offended. God wants our hearts. God wants a relationship with us.
Abel understood that God's justice is real and severe, that he is holy and innocent blood must be shed in order to have that relationship with God. He learned from what he saw modeled by his mom and dad as they told about the covering God had given them. He took an innocent animal from his flock, the best of his produce, and took it to God and offered it as a sacrifice.
God pursued Cain. Here we have again adultery of the heart. "God, I don't love you. I don't care about what you want from me. I'm going to do it my way." God says, "Cain, before you go too far down that road, I want to talk to you. You saw that I accepted Abel's sacrifice. I'm going to tell you again why.
Because Abel had intercourse with me, had relationship with me, trusted in me, believed in my Word, knows that I am good, didn't resent what I asked of him, and loves me." Cain, you came like many people today show up in church, give a little bit of cash, and maybe do a little bit of service. "God, if that isn't good enough, if you won't take what I have to give you, then to heck with you. If my works aren't good enough, then to hell with you."
God says, "You know what? I want your heart. I don't want you showing up. I don't want you paying up. I don't want you being polite. I want your heart. I want you to be my intimate ally who will take on the evil that is in this world and glorify me by living in unity and union and submission and surrender to me.
I want you to allow your life to be a vessel for me to use to love others, to be a source of hope and peace and show self-control and how you can overcome the sin that is at your door that seeks to master you. Give yourself to me, and together we will lift up my glory on the earth that others might have relationship with me. Because I desire to know them and I want to use you as a means to do that.
Don't be some person who just pays some religious tax. I rejected the effort of your parents to cover their own sin and I reject, Cain, yours to make yourself acceptable in my sight. You take by faith what I've offered you, which is gracious provision to have relationship with the holy God that you have torn yourself away from. Don't be angry."
"Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well…" If you repent, if you believe. "…will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well…""Listen, Cain, this is the first time I'm going to describe to you people what evil does in your heart. God would say sin is like a wild animal which is ready to pounce on you and devour you. You cannot cohabitate with it. You cannot manage it. You must master it or it will ruin you. Cain, stop the direction that you're going. Give your heart back to me."
Cain had nothing of it. I want to show you the progression of sin. In Genesis, chapter 3, Eve needed to be convinced by Satan that rebelling against God was a good idea. In Genesis, chapter 4, Eve's son could not be convinced by God to not do what Eve had to be deceived into doing. Adam, in Genesis 3, said, "I'm not sure I'm fully responsible." He tried to shift the blame away from him.
In Genesis 4, Adam's son said, "What's the big deal if I did it? What are you going to do about it? I'm not going to admit that I did it and I'm not going to even acknowledge there's a problem. I'm not even going to acknowledge that you should have a problem with it." We start to become more violent in our rebellion against the God who loves us as sin takes a greater piece of our hearts.
"Cain told Abel his brother." Come over here with me. "And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him." Because Cain rejected the Word of God, Cain rejected the call of God that there is need for innocent blood to be shed in order for you to be acceptable to me, and Cain rejected the goodness of the way of God. Instead of loving, serving, and walking in humility, Cain becomes murderous, vile, and hateful.
Genesis 4 walks you through the seed of the Serpent. Genesis 4 in the story starts to develop those who will go forward in the lineage of Cain, following after their own will and way, giving their heart consistently to others. You will find out that in Genesis 4, we have the introduction of the increase of civilization.
Technology is introduced in Genesis 4. Men fashion instruments out of metal, both for war and to help them as they till the earth. You will find in Genesis, chapter 4, that music is introduced. Instead of using music and the arts to worship God, Lamech, the son of Cain, uses song to taunt God and say, "I will do what I will do my way when I want."
Music is God's gift. It's part of what creative people made in the image of God will introduce. God wants to use it to glorify him. Sin will have us use technology and the arts always to establish ourselves as free creatures able to live without God and to mock God with our own greatness. That's Genesis 4.
You'll find out, like I said, that while civilization will advance, morality, truth, ethics, love, they're all put aside. The home deteriorates. In Genesis 4, it's the descendent of Cain, Lamech that says, "God said, 'One man, one woman.' To heck with that! I like Adah and I like Zillah!" Lamech takes two wives for himself. Somebody gets mad at Lamech. Lamech will kill him and his family, not just his brother. Sin increases.
Genesis 4 tells that story. Genesis 5, on the other hand, tells you that God by his grace brings forth another one whose name is Seth, which means appointed one. Seth is one who lives by faith, accepting the Word of God, the idea that God will one day deliver him through substitutionary atonement, and the idea that God is just and therefore he needs to accept God's provision. He will accept that God is good.
Through the line of Seth, you'll find one who is introduced to us called Noah. What is happening in Genesis 4 and Genesis 5 as the story unfolds is you're seeing God continue to pursue the Lamechs of the world, continuing to call them back through people who he loves and has a relationship with, through the Seths and the Enoshes and the others.
There is a God. You do want to know him. Don't go your own way. Come back to him. Live by him in faith, but evil increases at a rate which righteousness cannot curtail it. Seven generations from Adam, we get to a pretty bad place. Genesis 6. It says, "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved…"
Do you see this? God isn't grieved because his authority has been challenged. God isn't mad because his room is a mess. Why is God hurt? God is sorry because he created this creature because he wanted to love him and have relationship with him. Not because he was lonely, but because he was good and he wants to share his love with them.
God's heart is being broken again and again and again. He is grieved at heart. Do you see that? Anytime we turn from God with an evil intent in the thoughts of our hearts and we give ourselves to any form of life apart from surrender and submission to the goodness and character of God as revealed in his Word through his Spirit, we are hurting the heart of God.
The Scripture says, "You grieve the Spirit of God, you quench the Spirit of God, the love that is there available to you. You are adulterers of heart." There is no pain on this earth like being betrayed by somebody who told you that they would love you and serve you and give themselves to you completely, only to have your heart devastated by that rejection. The Scripture says, "That's what you do when you turn from me."
It continues with God's discourse with Noah because we know we have this one who God is going to raise up, who he is going to have favor with. It says in Genesis 6, "The LORD said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD."
God found one whose heart was given to him. He found one ally who he was going to work with, who he was going to love with, and who he was going to continue to raise up the light of his glory with. Genesis 6, verse 11: "Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. Then God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them…'"
They turn from me and they fill their life up with other things that do not move toward glory. They move toward death and destruction. In this scene, we have humanism increasing. We have murder increasing. We have independence increasing. We have immorality increasing. We have war increasing. We have a defiant people.
God says, "It will not stand. It will not stand." So he moves against it. He tells Noah, "I am about to destroy them… Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch." If you're a Bill Cosby fan, you know what happens next. Cosby does a great routine with this. "Noah. Noah."
"Noah, build an ark."
He says, "Who is that?" It goes on. "Am I on Candid Camera? Why would I build a boat in the middle of a landlocked country?"
"Because it's going to rain."
"Right. What's rain?"
Because at that time, it says that God had covered the earth. The earth's atmosphere was different in his original creation. God had a canopy over the earth which caused the earth to be fed from the dew of the morning and the dew of the evening. There was no rain in that time and day, the Scriptures tell us.
God said, "I'm going to change that. I'm going to unlock the storehouses in the heavens and I'm going to have this thing called rain come down and create this thing called flood. These people who can't do a thing called tread water for 40 days are going to go down. So Noah, because I love you in my grace I will give you a means through which you might be lifted up from the coming flood of judgment.
You will become a symbol to the earth of what they need to do, which is trust in the one who is considered righteous. Believe his herald call to the coming provision of God and find rest." We know that Noah built this ark over 120-year period while men were marrying, giving in marriage, eating, and drinking.
It sounds pretty harmless until you understand the way it's described in Genesis, that it was done with all kind of base immorality, hedonism, indulgence, and rebellion against God. "We can find life without you. We'll marry who we want to marry, eat what we want to eat when we want to eat it, and do what we want to do with our lives."
God said, "Justice is coming, Noah. I'm going to destroy them. Tell them I'm going to destroy them. Tell them that they want room on your ark. If they don't, there's going to be a day when the door will be shut and no one can come in." We find the story of how God brought judgment to the earth through Noah.
You learn this from Noah. You learn in this part of the story that God will ultimately judge evil. The Scriptures teach us that. We learn from here that God will spare the faithful. I said it already. I'll say it again. If there is salvation available by putting faith in a man who is considered righteous by God, that rest is available in the righteous one.
We learn from Genesis 6 that faith in God's provision can sometimes look foolish. Why would I build a boat in the middle of a desert because it's going to flood when it has never rained? Why would I trust in a cross that a man hung on 2,000 years ago that supposedly because of what happened to him it can be well with me? Faith in God can look foolish, can't it, until you see what's at work behind it.
God, in his effort to love, has given you one who says, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.""I will be your Noah. There is judgment which is coming," Jesus Christ, the herald of righteousness said. "And only in me, the ark of salvation, as you shelter yourself in me will you escape the coming judgment, which will not come by water this time but will come with heat and destruction when this earth will be utterly destroyed. Not that the wicked will be wiped out, but that all the earth and the wickedness of it and all who are wicked on it will be consumed and preserved for later judgment."
Look what happens in Genesis, chapter 9. In Genesis 9, it says, "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them…" After the waters had receded, some 300 days. "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky…" Notice what's in Genesis 9:1. In Genesis 9:1, God is reestablishing the call of humankind to lift up the light of his glory, to be his image-bearers on the earth, to be about glorifying God.
God told Cain, "…you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth." In Genesis 4:16, Cain says, "No I won't. I'm going to build a city for myself in defiance of God. It's not about doing what you want on the earth. It's about building a place of greatness for me." God told Noah. "Okay, Noah, we're starting over. You on your little boat on Mount Ararat as the waters recede, you be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth.
Noah, to give you a chance, because the earth's condition has changed, because the food supply is rather wet and soggy, when that door opens and everybody walks out and gets away from the ark and the provision that I had you store on there, it won't be long before those animals need a food source. For your sake, the grace of God will now provide for you a sense of protection. I will put fear between you and the animals."
Why did he do that? Because otherwise when you get off that ark and you're a tiger and you look around and you're hungry, you're probably not going to look for the gazelle. You're going to go over there toward that biped and his woman who are stoved-up after 120 days on an ark (100-plus years old to begin with) and have them for supper, and we'll worry about what we'll do tomorrow.
God said, "No, I think what I'm going to do Noah is now there is going to be fear between the animals and you. They're going to run away from you. Noah you can eat them, but I'm not going to let them eat you as easily because they're going to be scared of you." If you want to be a vegetarian, fine. Just don't be a vegetarian because the Scriptures make you a vegetarian.
You're going to find out that the other thing God says is… Now when hatred increases on the earth, as God knew that it would though he instilled them with a conscience to know what was right and wrong, in Genesis 3, man, because he is not ultimately good and innately good will always choose evil. Society will not get better; it will get worse.
It is a worldview which is essential to understanding how we relate to the evil that is in this world. We are not moral blank slates, as some would have you believe. We are bent toward rebellion, warring, immorality, and defiance. God said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm now going to introduce on top of your conscience, this thing called government. If anybody takes your blood, their blood must be taken."
God instills authority that he bestows upon man. If you want to reject capital punishment, reject it, but don't reject it because the Bible teaches it and supports it. Genesis, chapter 9, a little further you'll find that God does something else. He establishes a covenant with Noah in verse 11. He says, "'…all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.' God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you…'"
God raised his right hand, if you will, and swears, "I will use restraint. I will hold back my wrath." God knew that evil is going to continue on the earth. So he said, "Every time a thunder cloud starts to form in the heavens and a thunderclap booms and lightning strikes, so you might not think in your insecurity, in your fear of rebellion that I'm going to destroy you again, I'm going to tell you that's not the way I'm going to destroy the earth ever again.
I'm going to telegraph how I'm going to destroy the earth through Revelation. It will not come unexpectedly and suddenly. I will give it to you with birth pangs that you might anticipate it, but in your wickedness, I have a hunch you'll still reject that," and you'll find out that's exactly what happens. God puts a bow in the heavens. It's a testament, the Scripture says, to the fact that God will never destroy the earth again that way. Why?
Because he loves man. Over a period of time he is going to set up a system through which men might return to him because he loves them. He is grieved at heart that they are choosing for themselves a way which leads to death. Are you here this morning? Have you been choosing ways which lead to death? I want you to know something. God loves you and he wants you to come back.
So what happens? We find out that Noah creates a garden. Here we are, another guy told to have dominion over the earth, builds another garden. What does Noah do? He gets drunk on the vine, another fruit that is used in a forbidden way. God wants man to walk in the fullness of his intellect, not dissipating himself with drunkenness. We have another naked brother full of shame.
Another garden, another forbidden misused fruit, nakedness and shame again, so what happens? We have one wicked son who comes and delights in rebellion and two who come and cover nakedness with an animal skin. Innocent blood off the ark shed that Daddy's sin might be covered up. What happens? These three sons of Noah go forth and populate the earth, but they don't go very far. They go to Shinar.
They build for themselves a city. Genesis, chapter 11. You know it as the Tower of Babel. It says, "Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words." They all came off the same boat. "It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 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…'"
"The heck with glorifying God on the earth. This is about us! Let's build," "… a tower whose top will reach into heaven…""Let's not get to heaven by faith. Let's build ourselves our own entrance, our own means. We'll look God in the eye and say, 'How are you doing? You can be in our club.'" "…let us make for ourselves a name…"
"Let us not trust that greatness comes by being related to the God who made us. We will be significant and great without God." Do you see a pattern here? Yes! It should be vaguely familiar to you. It's what you and I do consistently. It's what happened in the age of innocence. It's what happened when God instilled in us conscience.
It's what happened in the form of government that you're about to see. Now God is going to introduce blessing and promise to people and we'll still be adulterers at heart. You're going to find that God through this story, in all kinds of different systems, is going to keep pursuing us because he loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. Watch this.
Babylon's city motto is, "To us be the power and the glory forever and ever." God says, "You know what? If this continues, judgment is going to have to come a little quicker than I anticipated it would." God introduces the nations in Genesis 11. He changes languages. How do you retard evil in a classroom? Teachers here can tell you that.
You have a couple of kids. One of my children recently had this experience with one of the children of my friends, whose eyes I lock with even now, who are in the same class at their school. They had to be separated because when these little creatures get together, they deny their consciences. Morality isn't birthed from them; wickedness increases as they dwell together.
To retard evil in the classroom, we must separate Kirby from her posse lest we lose all dominion here. That's what God did. He retards evil by creating languages. But what happens? They learn to have their own little tribal wars, their own little independent empires of immorality. God is now going to introduce a new system to declare his love to the world.
Not working corporately anymore with the nations, but choosing one. Who does he choose? God does some amazing things, things you wouldn't expect. In Genesis 4, we find out that not only does he allow us to have a relationship with him by faith and not by works, because he wants our hearts and not our cash, he also chooses the younger not the older, which is very backwards from the way we think.
We think the first one there gets it. God, you're going to find out, works through grace. God loves who he loves and pursues radically who he pursues. Did God pursue Cain? You can look back and remember. Yes, he did. He begged Cain to come home to him. But in God's grace, he did a work apparently in Abel's heart that enabled Abel to love God in a way that pleased God by faith.
You're going to find that God is going to choose one man and one woman. They are from Ur of the Chaldeans. His name is Abram. He is an older man, 75 years old, married to a woman who has some discouragement. The two of them, it would seem, have kind of come to the end of what the world offered them.
They were late in life, childless, filled with discouragement and despair. I love the words of Joni Eareckson Tada. When the wall fell in Russia, there was a Billy Graham Crusade over there. Who would be the first people you think God would take to preach the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ after 70 years of Communism and ruin?
She said, "It didn't surprise me that God used an old man with Parkinson's Disease, a woman who is a quadriplegic, and our translator who is a blind man to deliver that country to freedom. Because God works in ways that glorify him and not in ways that we would imagine him glorifying himself through great men here who we would glorify." God picks this man and this woman. He says, "I'm going to love you. I'm going to bless you. I'm going to promise you three things."
"Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.'"
What is God going to do? You're going to find out that these people are descendants of Noah's son Shem. They are Shemites. We'd know them as Semites. They are Jews. Why did God choose the Jews? This is your answer to the question today. Why is this one nation unique among all nations? Why the Jews? Isn't that unfair? The answer is that God decided to work uniquely through a relationship, because God is lover. He is an intimate God who wants relationship with people.
Through the joy of the intimacy and protection that would come through him as a present sovereign lover in the life of a relationship with this nation, with this people, who he made great through his own promise and his own blessing, and his own decree that would rise up on top of all the nations of the earth that other nations who God also loved would say, "What is the secret to your empire, to your joy, to your morality, to your civility, to your ethic, to your wisdom?"
Answer: not that we are the greatest scholars and philosophers, not that we are greater warriors than you. "We know the God who created you and created us and he wants to know you as well. We welcome you to know the God who is. He is revealing himself through his blessing that he puts on us. Because he wants to love you as well. He wants you to see the glory of our love relationship and invite you into it."
Abraham is given a covenant blessing, and the light of his glory is lifted through them. Abraham has a son whose name is Isaac. Isaac, the blessing is repeated to him in chapter 26. After it was told to Abraham in chapter 12, chapter 15, chapter 17, and chapter 22, Abraham has a son whose name is Isaac. Let me just give you a picture here.
Why was Abraham one who found favor in the eyes of God? For the same reason that Adam and Eve did after they sinned. For the same reason that Abel did after he lived as a sinful creature. For the same reason that Noah did as a man who lived during the time of evil. They had faith in God. Abram, it said, "…believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness."
Abraham gave his heart to God. He left what was comfortable, familiar, and available to him and said, "God is calling me somewhere else. I believe that the God who calls me is the God who made me, the God who loves me. I will go where he asks me to go. I will glorify him by walking in his ways and allowing him to make my way for me.
I will not lean on my own understanding, which is to stay with my people so I would not be attacked by others, stay in this place of protection, stay in this place of familiarity. I will go where God calls me. He will be glorified as it is well with me." In fact, God gave him a son, Isaac, when he was well over 100. This was the son that the blessing was supposed to come through.
God called Abram and said, "Abram, I want you to go and offer your son as a sacrifice." This is the only son of blessing. "This is the one through which the promise was going to come, and I'm supposed to offer him as a sacrifice?" God said, "Go." Early the next morning… Why? Because Abraham didn't hesitate to trust in the Word of God. He took Isaac. They started on their journey.
For three days they walked. Abraham told the servants to stay here and wait. Abraham took Isaac and they walked up the hill to Mount Moriah. Isaac noticed as they went their way to make the sacrifice, something significant was missing. "Daddy, where is the ram that we're going to kill?" Abraham says, "God himself, Isaac, will provide that ram."
They get up there. Still no ram there, so the altar is built. Abraham gets Isaac to come over. "Lay down here. Let's see how it's going to look on that ram." He raises his knife to drive it through the heart of his son, believing if necessary that God would raise that son from the dead. Not believing, "This makes sense to me that I would kill the only son of promise, but I'll do what God tells me to do until God tells me otherwise."
God stopped him and said, "Abraham, stop! I've seen now that you love me. I've seen that you believe me, that you'll do something that's completely unreasonable. Build an ark in the middle of the desert. Kill your own son. I'm not going to let you kill your son." Do you know what's interesting about Mount Moriah? Mount Moriah is known in the New Testament as Calvary.
It's a place where another Father gave his only Son, except this time the spear didn't stop. This time it ran straight through. This time, to show his love, he allowed that Son to be sacrificed in order that those he was separated from might come into a relationship with him. Why was Abraham acceptable to God? Because Abraham gave God his heart. God wants your heart. He is a lover and he is looking for you to trust him.
Isaac grew up. Isaac had two sons: Jacob and Esau. Again, God does something very strange. He takes the younger, but the younger thought because he wasn't first; he had to become great in his own way. So he came out chasing his brother, grabbing him by the heel. They called him Jacob, one who trips up and deceives.
You'll find that Jacob's entire life is about him becoming great by his own means, his own methods, his own striving after greatness. He lied. He manipulated, though God appeared to him in Genesis 28 and showed him in a vision that God is working for you. Jacob's ladder showed angels who were coming down from heaven and back up, ministering, caring for him. He repeats the blessing and the promise to him in Genesis 28 that came from Abraham.
"You're going to be great, Jacob, because you are Abraham's boy and I promise to glorify myself in you. Have faith in me." Jacob didn't have faith in him. Men with conscience rebel against God. Men with government rebel against that. Men with a blessing and a promise from God betray his heart, yet God pursues him. He breaks Jacob, wrestles with him until he dislocates his hip and shows Jacob, "You'll be great not because you're strong and wise, but because you walk in dependence upon me."
He changes his name to Israel. Israel means God strives with Jacob. "You are great as a nation because I will make you great and because I am in your midst and I am glorifying myself through you as a people." Jacob has 12 sons. His eleventh is a man named Joseph. Joseph says in a vision, "All my brothers are going to worship me."
This offends the brothers, so they seek to kill him. But knowing they could get more by selling him into slavery than killing him, they sold him off into slavery. Left him for dead. A famine comes into the land. They go down to Egypt, only to find out that God in his miraculous way had used this brother that they had betrayed, this one who they loved and rejected.
This one who was of their own kin, who they thought as despised went before them, was seated at the right hand of the sovereign, the one before whom every knee would bow only to find life available there to them, though judgment is deserved, because the one who goes before them loves them. Sound familiar?
See, that's your Bible. What do you learn from all this? What you're going to see throughout the rest of the story is that God is revealing his greatness. This is a book which talks about the radical irresponsible, unspeakable love of God. God wants you to respond to that. We are lifting up the light of his glory so that you might go, "I want to know a lover like that."
God says, "Fine, give me your hearts." The reason he calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is because he is desperate for you to know he is a God with a history, a God with a résumé, a God you can trust. Go back and look. "Did I ever let down those boys? Have I ever betrayed that nation that was my nation?"
We're going to talk about next week some of the horrors that befell upon that nation of Jerusalem, where they are today, these Semite people, and what God is going to do with them eventually. Does he love them? Is he a God who should be loved because he loves the Jews? The answer is going to be yes.
You're going to find out that just like in Genesis where Joseph was used as one who would go before them, as I said, that though they rejected him, he was seated at the right hand of the father and they didn't recognize him. He would give them, out of the kindness of his heart, the one who they thought was dead is in fact alive.
When they are brought to their senses and see the pain that they have brought their father Jacob by the rebelling against Joseph and they weep over the pain they caused the father, they are given life by the son. It's the story. You and I, like them, though we are promised blessing, though we are given conscience, though there is a government to restrain evil, continue to betray him with our hearts.
God is saying this morning, "Will you love me? Will you be people who will fill the earth, who will lift up the light of my glory by walking in faith with me even when it seems irresponsible, even when it seems contrary to nature? Will you love me? Give me your heart. I don't want your attendance. I don't want your tithe. I want all of you!
Then you'll give me whatever you need to give me as part of your expression of love for me. What is mine is yours and what is yours should be mine. Your whole life, everything you have. I don't want you to cut me in when it makes sense to you. I want you to be irresponsible in your faith toward me. That will give me glory.
As I make it well with you by filling your soul with the adventure of relationship with me, the fullness of love, the fullness of capacity of joy and self-control and goodness that a human being can experience because they are living as I designed them to live, others will be irresistibly drawn to me and love me as well. I want to use you as a wooer of lost souls, but you have to love me. Give me your heart."
Father, I pray for my friends this morning as we hear how you're working, that we would give you our hearts, that we would not cause you grief, that we would not quench our love relationship, that we would take your offer of acceptance of us by having another substitute in our place that innocent blood would be shed that we might live.
What an irresponsible act from a sovereign lover to have another one suffer that I might be redeemed, but, Lord, that's what you say you've done. Though you would not let Abraham show his love for you by giving his son, you show your love for us by giving your son and giving him to us in a way that is unspeakable in its horror.
Yet we in a very clumsy, stupid, rebellious way continue to give our hearts to somebody for some immediate pleasure or some fleeting offer of life. We commit adultery of the heart to you. We are a thorn in your side, a mockery to a world that watches you. You hear us say that we are in love with you while we then go after all the things that the world goes after.
God, forgive us for being so short-sighted and so ill-focused in our love. We sit here and we sing, "God, open the eyes of my heart." And we do sing that. God, would you open the eyes of our hearts? Would you show us how glorious you are that we might never follow that siren song again and have our hearts ripped in two and another scar emblazoned on us that you need to cover again with your offer of forgiveness?
We thank you, Lord, that no matter how clumsy we get, you'll always be there. Knit our hearts to you. Give us the wisdom to surround ourselves with godly folks who will push us toward righteousness; your Word, which will train us in righteousness; and your Spirit, which will seal us in righteousness. Make us your people. We thank you for your grace though we are clumsy.
Even the people of blessing turned away from you and were no better than their ancestors, even though we ourselves follow in their path, you love us, and we delight in you for it. Help us to worship you now with all of our hearts fully captured by you, not full of rationalization and compromise but wed to you in oneness, as you intended, amen.
Clumsy, non-Semites, he loves you. He loves me. I'm as clumsy as anybody. He wants us to guard our hearts with all diligence, for from it flow the wellsprings of life. You do that in the context of community with the means of grace through prayer and surrender to his Word and meditation, loving each other and spurring each other on, forsaking sin, resisting the Devil, knowing he'll flee from us, not being conformed to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
God wants your heart. Will you give it to him? That's what worship is. It's not here. It's there. It's everywhere. It's constant surrender, abiding with him. When you're clumsy, you thank him that he keeps pursuing you and letting you back in. You confess. You rejoice in the provision of substitutionary atonement. You purpose to surround yourself with other lovers of his Word and be a herald of righteousness in life, in word, and in deed. Give your heart to God in the person of Jesus Christ.
We gave you this book that you might read it. It's a short book. You can read it tonight. As you give your heart to God, you'll give your heart to other people. You take this book after you read it and sometime in the next seven or eight days, you give this book to a friend. You ask them to come and rejoice with us as we make the case that Easter is God's greatest expression of being irresponsible in his love. Would you use this to lift up the light of his glory? Know it and share it. Give him your heart. Have a great week of worship.
We all love a great story...one filled with rescue, romance, and unrelenting love...one filled with courage, heroism, and ultimate triumph. Stories like this resonate with something deep inside all of us. Why? Because there is a greater story that we are all a part of. A story so embedded in our beings that we find even a shadow of it irresistible. It is a story that makes the most audacious claims in history, and a story which uniquely and powerfully provides hope, meaning and answers to all of life's great questions.