Monthly Archives: March 2016
Preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon from February 19, 1865 on Genesis 8:21:
It would be very instructive to dwell upon each point of the resemblance between Noah’s deliverance and the salvation of every elect soul. Noah enters the ark: there is a time when we distinctly enter Christ and become one with Him. Noah was shut in the ark so that he could never come out again till God should open the door: there is a time when every child of God is shut in, when faith and full assurance give him an evidence that he is indissolubly on with Jesus Christ; grasped in Christ’s hand so that none can pluck him thence, hidden in Christ’s loins so that none can separate him from the love of God. Then comes the the flood: there is a season in the Christian’s experience when he discovers his own depravity; he is saved, he is in the ark, he is however still a sinner, still the subject of imbred lusts: on a sudden all these corruptions break up, the beat upon the ark, they assail his faith, they endeavor if possible to drown his soul in sin, but he is not destroyed by them all, for by the grace of God he is where other men are not, he is where he cannot be drowned by sin, he is in Christ Jesus. He mounts as the floods deepen; the more he feels the depth of his depravity, the more he admires the fullness of the atoning sacrifice, the more terrible the temptation the more joyous is his consolation in Christ Jesus, so he rises in holy communion towards his God…
The saved souls first act is, like Noah, to build an altar unto God and, as a priest, to offer sacrifice, which as it rises to heaven, is accepted because it is a memorial of Christ…
If you wish to rise above the flood of judgment that every sinner deserves, then enter Christ, the perfect and ultimate ark.
This past Sunday during the sermon (Genesis 5:1-6:8) it was raining like it was the days of Noah during the flood. At least that’s what it sounded like with our building’s metal roof. I could barely hear myself think so I decided to jettison the second half of the sermon, and when I did I promised a blog concerning the questions I was sure people were wondering.
Before I try to answer the questions of inquiring minds, I want to reiterate what I said on Sunday. It is fine to ask questions and wonder, but be careful that tertiary concerns don’t distract you from Jesus who is the fulfillment and end of all the scriptures (John 5:39; Ephesians 3:10; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Yes, be eager to learn – be a sponge – but if it doesn’t help you follow Jesus with all your heart and mind, what good is to you in eternity? Always keep in mind that the author could have said many more things than were written, but the author whose writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit (John 20:30; 2 Timothy 3:16), was intending to tell you something about the triune and only true God. Sometimes we wonder about things in the text that the author did not mean to answer and we must be careful not to chase those rabbits too far down the hole of fruitless distraction. Therefore, we must always be careful to stay teachable but we must also say what we can say for sure so that we don’t get lost chasing speculations that have no firm answer. The Bible is not just a book of ancient curiosity, but a book of special revelation that points us to the way ,the truth and the life (John 14:6). We must keep our eyes on the intended authorial meaning, and we must make essential truth our rallying point for unity.
Now back to my promise and the reason you are likely reading. Genesis 5:1-6:8 is a faith-testing passage because it has verses that many have questions about, but it also has verses that may cause us to question whether we can trust the Bible.
Here are four questions that I suspect many people had from Sunday’s passage.
- How can I (we) trust the Bible when it says that people lived almost 1,000 years in Genesis 5:1-32? To get the ball rolling, there are living things on earth that live a long time compared to the life expectancy of humans. For instance, Ming the deep-sea clam lived 507 years. I don’t know how humans verified that scientifically, but let’s give Ming the benefit of the doubt. A bristle-cone pine is capable of living up to 5,000 years. So there are living things that can live a really long time – for whatever that is worth. But humans living upwards to a thousand years? Seems more mythical than factual – right? By the way, can you imagine having a child when you are 815 years? I can barely keep up with my children at the age of 40. If you presuppose a human can’t live that long under any circumstance, then I suppose nothing will convince you otherwise. I suggest you stop reading here and get on to more important things because life is short these days. In the United States the life expectancy is a bout 80 years on average. However, in Genesis 3:22 Moses records the LORD God saying that had the man and woman taken from the tree of life and eaten, they would have lived forever. It appears then that never-perishing bodies was the original intent. But sin happened and death came just as promised (Genesis 2:17). Also remember Genesis chapter one, that God creates with awesome power by speaking the creation into being. Is it really so hard to believe that God can create a human that can live a thousand years if He can speak into being the universe in all its magnificent enormity? Would not a thousand years seem like a moment to an eternal God? Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah is right in that if God can create, then is it too hard for Him to sustain eternally (Hebrew 1:1-4)? If you believe in God and believe He is there, do you not have enough faith to expect that He would be God-like and extraordinary in what He is able to do? Don’t you believe in a God for whom all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)? Perhaps you, or someone else might say, “Well, I just can’t believe in miracles like immortal elves (The Lord of the Rings) or virgin births (Matthew 1).” “Christians believe in the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus. Materialists believe in the virgin birth of the cosmos. Choose your miracle.” – (Glen Scrivener) One worldview says there is a cause and the other(s) says we don’t know – at least not yet. If there is a creator God, we have to give Him all the credit He deserves as the God for whom all things are possible. In no way am I suggesting that we should have a non-wondering, blind faith. We should observe the creation and wonder so that we might wander at God. Faith is based on knowledge. But having said that, why is it so hard to believe that an eternal God can be trusted to sustain people for hundreds of years on planet earth? If you believe the Bible, you do believe God will speak you into being for all eternity – right? 1,000 years doesn’t seem that long when you think about it that way.
- Who are the sons of God? I read no fewer than five commentaries and the one point they all agreed on is that this is greatly debated and there is no scholarly consensus. On the other hand, John MacArthur is quite sure he knows what it means and I find his arguments to be very compelling. You can read his sermon and argument here – DEMONIC INVASION. MacArthur argues that the “sons of God” (Job 38:7) are demons who possess men that results in child-producing relationships with the “daughters of men”. MacArthur says this is one of the reasons the people of that time were considered so wicked by the LORD God (6:5). Their activity was literally demonic. Some have pointed out that Matthew 22:30 suggests that angels are spirit-beings that are incapable of sexual relations and therefore the angel/demon hypothesis should be dismissed on these grounds, but MacArthur counters with the idea that these demons were simply inhabiting men who could reproduce. The other option is that the “sons of God” were simply the Seth-ites, or those from the line of Seth; Adam’s youngest son mentioned in Genesis chapter four. John H. Sailhammer contends that chapter six of Genesis is a summary description of people doing what people do. Namely, they were living life, flourishing (Gen. 4:17-22) and multiplying according to the blessing of God (Gen. 1:26-28). Jesus said in Matthew 24:38, “For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage…” There are other options, but these two seem to me to be the best. The question must be asked, however, what in these verses suggests that God’s merciful patience had come to an end (6:3)? Why would He say that they would have 120 more years to repent (6:3) and then judgment would come by way of flood? The demonic solution seems to be the best answer, but as for me, I am still undecided. But what can we say for sure? Here is my answer. With human flourishing came the flourishing of wickedness and the LORD God was grieved and ready to act in judgment. Wickedness was run-a-muck, and God had had enough.
- Who are the Nephilim? In Genesis 6:4, Moses tells us that they were on the earth when the sons of God were having children with the daughters of men, and that they were mighty men with legend-like reputations. The only other time the name Nephilim is used in the scriptures is Number 13:33 when the spies report what they saw in the promised land. “There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” From Numbers 13:33 we can conclude that the Nephilim were a large people – a giant-like people. Perhaps the spies and those who were with them as they plotted to enter the promised land remembered Genesis 6:4 and decided to describe the people they saw with the name: Nephilim? Keep in mind, that the only people who survived the flood, according to the Bible, were Noah, his wife, his sons and their wives. So the Nephilim the spies encountered, would not be the descendants of the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4. The most we might conclude then is that the Nephilim in Gensis 6 were large and mighty. But take note of what the text explicitly says about them: “Those were mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Moses speaks of them as exceptional mortal men and he speaks of them in the past tense. Maybe they were those mentioned in the line of Cain (4:17-22) who were renowned due to the human flourishing that came about in their time. Nevertheless, twice he takes care to emphasize that they are men. They are not aliens. They are not part demon and part human. They are men. Why does Moses mention this? MacArthur suggests that some in his time may have thought they were super-humans because they were part demon and part human, and therefore, Moses is dismissing this myth and saying there is no such thing and the people he is leading shouldn’t think demon mingling will help them. There are angels and demons, and there are humans, but there are no demon-humans. One final suggestion. The Nephilim are those in the line of Cain, and their giant-sized bodies were the sign that God gave to protect Cain from retaliation for killing Abel (4:13-15). Remember though that Cain’s line would have been wiped out by the flood, since Noah was of Seth’s line. So the Nephilim of Numbers 13:33 were not the result of God’s sign of protection to those who the spies saw. So what can we say for sure? The people Moses was writing to must have known what he was talking about, and whatever he meant to teach with this obscure mention of the Nephilim, we can be contextually sure that God was going to judge the world unless there was repentance.
- Was God admitting He was wrong to make man in Genesis 6:5-7? A few translations suggest that the LORD God was brought to repentance – a change of mind that leads to a change of action – because of the wickedness of the humans He created. Other translations say God was sorry, remorseful and that He regretted that He had made humans. Does this passage teach that God was wrong and He needed to change His mind in a repentance sort-of-way? The LORD God was patient for well over a thousand years before He declared that He was going to give mankind 120 years to repent before the flood delivered judgment (6:3). He desired that His crowning achievement repent. He felt anguish and disappointment that men and women had chose to go their own way instead of God’s way. These are the words that Moses chose to communicate the way the LORD God felt. One commentary described God’s response to wickedness this way: “God is not robot. We know him as a personal, living God, not a static principle, who while having transcendent purposes to be sure also engages intimately with his creation. Our God is incomparably affected by, even pained by, the sinner’s rebellion. Acknowledging the emotions of God does not diminish the immutability (unchangeable-ness) of His promissory purposes. Rather, His feelings and actions toward men, such as judgment or forgiveness, are always inherently consistent with his essential person and just and gracious resolve.” God does not repent of wrong, though He grieves and anguishes over it. What we witness in this passage is a personal God who has been deeply wronged by a close friend and so He experiences all the feelings that accompany betrayal. John MacArthur, who does not have a reputation of being a feely-kind-of-preacher, explained it this way: ‘”The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart.” This is what He felt. He felt sadness. He felt grief over what man had become. And the Lord expressed that sorrow in human terms. It was as if He was sorry He made them. Obviously God isn’t sorry in the sense that He was getting information He didn’t expect. He wasn’t sorry in the sense that it hadn’t turned out the way He thought it would, He knew exactly how it would turn out. But that didn’t make Him any less sorrowful and it didn’t make man any less guilty. And His sadness is not tied to some surprise, but His sadness is tied to the fact that He has no choice. His holiness demands destruction. It is necessary, it is inevitable, it is consistent with who He is. His holy nature has no choice but to punish him, and that brings Him grief. So we saw what the Lord saw and we read what the Lord felt.’ If God is incapable of wrong, then He is not perfectly holy, and if God is not perfectly holy, why do we have to repent and why are we judged for violated a infinitely righteous God. In Genesis 6:5-7, we get a snapshot of the LORD God who grieves over the just punishment that sin requires.
I don’t know if I have helped? I have tried to model thinking through these challenging questions in a biblical way, while challenging us to keep our eye on what the Bible is clearly teaching. It grows our faith in God to think through these things and be challenged by them. At the end of the day, you will either believe God, yourself or someone else. Trust Jesus Christ, the Resurrected One. The Bible, even the Old Testament, is ultimately about Him (2 Timothy 3:15-17).