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The Message of The Bible - Part Two
by Dave MillerIn our last lesson, we arrived at the flood, Genesis chapters six through nine. Four chapters are devoted to describing this ancient global flood which God brought upon the surface of this planet, completely cleansing our planet of the human population, with the exception of Noah and his family. By the way, we cannot count on Hollywood to represent to us the truth of the Bible. If you want to know what actually happened in history, biblically, you'd better go and study your Bible and not assume that Hollywood or the movie theater will represent to you the facts of the matter.
Before we leave the flood, in Genesis chapters six through nine, let me urge you to go to the first and second epistle of Peter. The apostle Peter referred to the flood on several occasions in his writings, and commented on certain circumstances related to the flood that I think are designed to be very beneficial to us. In fact, before we look at those two verses, let me call attention to the fact that the Old Testament was written to describe God's dealings with people prior to Jesus, prior to the cross. He gave laws to non-Jewish people, and then around 1500 B.C. he gave a separate law, a legal code, the Law of Moses, to the Jewish people. So God dealt with human beings prior to the cross through two different religions, or through two different legal systems. But, of course, once Jesus came and died on the cross, all of that was done away. According to Hebrews 9:15-17 and Colossians 2:14, all of that was done away. Now all human beings are living in the Christian era and all human beings are subject to the teachings of Christ found in the New Testament. However, the Old Testament is valuable for our study. As Paul said in Romans 15:4, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." The way Paul put it to Timothy in II Timothy 3:16-17 was, "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God might be complete, furnished completely unto every good work."
So, we ought to study our Old Testaments. We ought to recognize that even though there is legal detail that was given to other people at a different point in history, there is information to be gleaned for our benefit. We can learn, for example, who God is, what God was really like, and therefore what He is like today: His nature, His essence, His character, His attributes. We learn foundational principles of Bible living, like what it means to have faith. We learn about the grace of God. We learn about the concept of obedience, the mercy of God, the wrath of God. There is so much we learn that is directly applicable to people living today.
Now, let's go back to the flood of Genesis, chapters six through nine, and notice what Peter says about that in II Peter 3:9. There he makes the point that "God is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness". The point that Peter is making is that people who were living at the time of Noah were going merrily on their way, living life however they chose. They were living life according to their own passions, their own appetites, their own ideas. They had the impression that we can just go on and live any way we want in life. Like many today, they think God's not going to do anything if our behavior is corrupt.
Yet, Peter says God doesn't view time the way we do. He said the reason why there was a delay from God before the flood finally came upon people was because God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish. But I want you to notice that the great God of the universe, who has always been a God of grace, came to the end of His patience. The human population became so corrupt that they were irretrievable. They would not listen to Bible preaching. They would not repent and come back to God. God finally washed His hands, so to speak, and brought a cataclysmic deluge and destroyed people from this earth. That tells me that the God of grace is also a God of wrath. His wrath is not contradictory to His grace. It simply means that even though He's done everything possible for people to be saved eternally (there's the grace of God), He's not going to save people who choose not to be responsive to His grace. So there came an end to the patience of God. Therefore God brought this tremendous flood.
Another thing that Peter teaches us is from first Peter chapter three, verses twenty and twenty-one. There we are informed that "the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared." If you go back to Genesis 6:3 it appears that it was built over a long period of time, over a century before God actually brought the flood. During that time, according to II Peter 2:5, Noah was preaching to people, urging them to repent, to get their lives right with God. The long suffering of God waited during that period when the ark was being prepared. And then Peter says, "Wherein few, that is eight souls, were saved by water". Isn't that interesting? We usually think of the flood water as destroying people, which it did. But notice that Peter uses a preposition in I Peter 3:20 when he says "saved by water". He means saved through water. The Greek preposition would be better translated through. He's not saying the water saved people. He's saying God used water to separate, to make a distinction between, those who were lost and destroyed by the flood, versus those who escaped the consequences of the flood. So water was the dividing line, water was the medium through which God chose to rescue eight people. Look at the next verse, I Peter 3:21, "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us." Not the washing off of your body, the dirt of your flesh, but it is the point at which you have the answer of a clean conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Christ. I Peter 3:21 is telling us that God's graciousness, God's love and compassion for us will reach down and cleanse us of our sins based on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, His atoning work. But God does that in the context of water immersion. Just as the water of the flood was the distinction between lost and saved, Peter says that is how Christian baptism works. Baptism is designed to make a distinction between those who have not become Christians and those who have. This is a fascinating study in I Peter 3. I invite you to get your Bible and study that more at your leisure.
Now, we continue our study in Genesis. Look at Genesis chapter eleven. Chapter ten has some genealogies, then we move to chapter eleven, and here is that story about the tower of Babel. What an interesting passage. People band together and build this great skyscraper, this tower. The key to this narrative, this historical event, is found in verses three through five of chapter eleven. They said, "We are going to make a name for ourselves". In other words, God had told them, "I want you to replenish the earth, populate the earth, spread out, don't cluster." They refused to do that. They were disobedient to God. Why? Their attitude was, "We're going to be somebody". The human pride, the pride that so typifies much of the human race, asserted itself, arrogance came forth, and notice how God chose to deal with that circumstance. Prior to this point in human history all human beings spoke the same language. There was only one human language on this planet. At this point in history, God miraculously brought about the various major language groupings of human history. Forcing, therefore, people to cluster according their linguistic grouping. That forced them to fan out and do what God had originally told them to do. There is the historical genesis of the major languages which exist on the world today, although obviously many dialects and minor languages, sub-languages have been developed since that time.
That brings us then to Genesis chapter twelve. Here is a text that some have referred to as "the hub of the Bible". Why would you think that would be the case? Because we are introduced to a man whose name was Abram. He was from Ur of the Chaldees. Ur was a highly advanced civilization in its day. In fact, archeologists who have excavated that part of the world have said that this was a highly advanced civilization. They had indoor plumbing; they had running water in their homes; they had tiled walls in their homes. Many of the things that we think are advanced and modern technology, they actually had. Even though Abram was born into a family that was pagan, whose own father believed in many gods and had household gods that he worshipped, Abram was a monotheist. God spoke to him. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). God spoke to Abram and told him to come out of the Ur of the Chaldees, load up his belongings, and get all of his family together, pack up and depart his homeland. Abram listened to God's words. God's words stimulated faith within him and he stepped out in obedient faith in response to God. Thus he came into a right relationship with God, the same way anybody does by an active faith, an obedient response to God.
Hebrews chapter eleven says, "by faith Abraham, when he was called to go out to a place that he would after receive for an inheritance, he went out not knowing where he was going." That's incredible! That's faith! Notice that God made three promises to Abraham. We call them the land promise, the national promise, and the spiritual promise. Here's where we are getting down to why some call Genesis twelve "the hub of the Bible". The national promise was where God said, "I am going to make of you a great nation." What He meant was you're going to have a child, that child will have children and on and on until you have an entire ethnic group, a national entity that has descended from you that will be the Hebrew nation, the Jewish nation, the Israelites.
The land promise said, "I am going to give to these descendants of yours a piece of real estate." We call it Palestine. It's interesting that that very promise was fulfilled by the time of Joshua, although the full extent of the land boundaries were actually applied in the days of the third King of Israel, Solomon. Read carefully, Joshua 21:43-45. When Joshua, many years later went in and conquered the Promised Land by God's inspiration he stated the promise that God made to Abraham, the promise that God would give to his descendants the land of Canaan, was fulfilled.
As a matter of fact there is no indication in Scripture anywhere that that land promise is yet to be fulfilled today. It was actually fulfilled by the time of Joshua. The third promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis chapter twelve was what we call the spiritual promise. He said "in you and your seed (your descendants) all the families of the earth will be blessed." When you turn over to Galatians chapter three, Paul informs us that that was a reference to Jesus Christ, who makes it possible for any human being on this planet, regardless of nationality or ethnicity, to be saved by Christ if they so choose. That's why Genesis twelve is sometimes called "the hub of the Bible". That's why Paul said the gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8). The good news that Jesus would one day come and sacrifice Himself for the entire human race was indicated to Abraham all the way back at this point in history. We're talking 2000 -- 2100 B.C. Twenty-one hundred years before Jesus ever came to the planet, Abraham was told that people would be blessed by the coming of Christ.
As you continue reading in your Old Testament in chapter thirteen, you are informed that Abraham's brother died, and therefore Abraham took into his care and keeping, his brother's son, his nephew. His name was Lot. You remember how Abraham's herdsman and Lot's herdsman could not get along with each other, and so being the generous uncle that he was he told his nephew "you select whatever real estate you choose, and I will take what's left over." And so Lot, I think selfishly, selected the more fertile areas of the plain. Therefore, Genesis thirteen informs us that he pitched his tents toward Sodom. That means in the direction of, as far as. Yet if you move on down to Genesis chapter eighteen, Lot has actually moved his family into "sin city", the Vegas of the day. He actually gathered up his children and his wife and they moved into town, a notoriously wicked city.
In the intervening chapters, from chapter thirteen to chapter eighteen, there are other encounters that Abraham has with God. You remember when God called him out of Ur he was sixty years old. God told him, "I am going to make of you a great nation." The next time God spoke to Abraham, he was getting up in years. His wife was certainly getting up in years and really beyond the age of childbearing. That led to Abraham and Sarah getting together and discussing how they could produce an heir, since Sarah was unable to physically do so. That was when they decided to conform themselves to a legal stipulation that was very current and prominent in their culture at that point in history. You could produce an heir to the estate by using a surrogate mother. Therefore, Hagar, one of the handmaidens of the household, was selected to bear a child for Abraham. Ishmael was the result of that union. Whenever God spoke to Abraham, and Abraham said "Oh, that Ishmael might live before you, here is the heir." God said, "No, this will not be the heir through whom I will bless the world and make a great nation. This heir is going to come from Sarah, your wife's body." God had not said that up to that point. So Abraham thought he was helping God bring about God's will, by offering to make an heir through some other means. But the text indicates that God then clarified that for him and said, "No, this child will come through Sarah."
We then come to chapter eighteen. The cities of the plain were so wicked, that God sent some angelic beings down to have a discussion with Abraham. Abraham proposed this tremendous question, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" Of course, the answer to that question is yes, God would. Abraham said okay, if there are at least fifty righteous people left in these cities, will you spare them? God said, yes I will. Abraham then said what about forty-five? God said yes. What about forty? Okay. What about thirty? Yes. Twenty? Yes. What about ten, if there are just ten righteous people will you spare these cities? God said yes. Abraham left off there. He stopped the discussion with God. I guess he figured there were at least ten people in Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain that would be sufficiently spiritual, sufficiently morally upright, that God would refrain from destroying these cities. But you know there were not?
We ought to stop and think about that, with regard to American civilization. How far down the tubes of moral decline and corruption are we at this point in our history? How far are we going to go? At what point will God turn His back on this nation and "give us up", as Paul said in Romans 1:26ff? God gave them up to reprobate minds and lies. Sodom and Gomorrah had become so corrupt that there were not even ten righteous people. In chapter nineteen, what a startling, shocking, appalling social scenario, where apparently the homosexual population of that particular community was dominant and was therefore actually pressing same sex relationships upon other inhabitants.
Finally the angelic beings grab Lot by the arm and say, "Come on, you must come out of this city." Reluctantly he left with his wife and two of his children. The implication is that he had other children, perhaps in-laws, sons-in-law or whomever who chose not to exit the city with them. They left, but in direct opposition to God's instructions to them to not look back, Lot's wife did. Jesus said in Luke 17:32, "Remember Lot's wife." Why? Why did Lot's wife look back? Was it mere curiosity? She just wanted to see what it would look like? No, the Bible indicates that she had a divided heart. She really didn't want to leave the city. She had one foot in the church, one foot in Christianity, and one foot in the world so to speak. She was torn and wasn't completely devoted to God. This divided heart, this half-heartedness, caused her to be destroyed. As they were heading out away from those cities, God caused burning sulphur to rain down out of the atmosphere, completely destroying those wicked cities of the plain. There's God's attitude about human immorality and wickedness that becomes so dominant that it prevails in a particular locale. Do you know that God so thoroughly destroyed those cities that to this very day, archaeologists discuss amongst themselves and disagree as to the location of those cities. They were that thoroughly destroyed. Some have suggested that they are very close to the vicinity of the Dead Sea, perhaps even under the Dead Sea, accounting for the high mineral content of that water, because burning sulphur destroyed them from the face of the earth. I'm suggesting to you that the Bible teaches that the great God of the universe, as loving, compassionate and merciful as He is, infinite in those attributes, perfect in His love, He is also perfect, complete, infinite in the attributes of wrath and His disfavor toward sin. God hates sin, the Bible teaches. To fit all those attributes together, we must recognize that God's wrath is perfectly appropriate and not in any way contradictory to His love, compassion and mercy. Those cities were destroyed and Lot barely escaped with his own life.
We now go on to chapter twenty-one of Genesis. Here we finally have one of God's promises coming to fruition. That is, the child of promise is born. The child that God promised to Abraham and Sarah at least forty years earlier, finally comes to pass. Little Isaac is born. Sarah said, "Who would have thought that God would allow me to laugh again, at this age of my life?" And that is what they named the child. Isaac means "laughter", one who laughs. In the very next chapter, Genesis chapter twenty-two, God says. "Now I want you to take him out and kill him." Isn't that incredible? Here is the heir, the child of promise, through whom God will make a great nation and bless people spiritually through Christ, and God tells Abraham, "I want you to take this boy out and kill him." Look at Abraham's obedient faith. Read carefully Romans 4:20-21, "He wavered not through unbelief, but was strong in faith, being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able to perform." He made every preparation to go forth and do exactly what God told him to do, to execute that child. According to Hebrews eleven, in Abraham's mind his son was dead. He figured that God would raise him from the dead after he killed him. That's faith. But at the last moment, God stayed his arm, and substituted in his place a ram who had been caught in a nearby thicket by its horns. Notice this prefiguring of Jesus Christ. Here we have a tremendous image of Jesus, an innocent lamb of God who has done no sin. Yet just before His death, He had a crown of thorns shoved down on His head. He was substituted to bear our iniquity, to die in our stead, just like that ram took the place of Isaac. What a tremendous portrait of God's redeeming love for us! He loves us so much that He actually came to this planet in the person of His Son and died, miserably suffering on our behalf. That is tremendous! Praise God for what He has done for us!This item originally appeared in Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve