January 4, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, January 4-10

January 4

Morning - Gen. 5,  Mt. 3
Evening - Gen 6,  Rom. 3 

Commentary, Genesis 5 and 6

Many wonder where Cain’s wife came from.  We are not told.  Cain’s story in chapter 4 is only given to show the depths of sin into which mankind continues to fall.  Having accomplished that, Genesis hurries on to the story of Seth, for Seth is the chosen vessel.  In him, and his son, Enos, after two hundred years of darkness and rebellion, “began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”

Chapter 5 gives the first several generations in the genealogy of the Messiah.  We see His line traced through Seth to Noah in Gen. 5.  We see it traced to Abraham in Gen, 10 and 11.  We see His line traced from Abraham to Joseph in Matthew 1.  So, the main point of Genesis 5 is Seth, who carries on the knowledge and worship of God, and begins the line through whom the Saviour will be born.

The sons of God in 6:2 are the descendants of Seth who have been spiritually adopted by God.  They are called sons of God in the same way the Jews are called children of God in Deuteronomy. 14:1, and Christians are called sons of God in John 1:12.  The point of chapter 6 is that the Sethites do not remain faithful to God.  They intermarry with the unbelieving descendants of Cain, who are physically big and strong, but spiritually are as small and weak as babies. Though men of physical prowess result from these marriages, the spiritual condition of the Sethite sons of God plummets to the level of the Canites.  Thus they are included in the description in 6:5; “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” so much that it grieved the heart of God (6:6).  It would do well to meditate on your sin, and how it also grieves the heart of God.

The result is God’s decision to cleanse the world of the human race.  Only the house of Noah, a descendant of Seth who still walks with God (6:9), will be saved.  Verses 13-22 record the call of Noah and the construction of the Ark.



January 5

Morning - Gen. 7,  Mt. 4
Evening - Ge. 8,  Rom. 4

Commentary, Genesis 7 and 8

Genesis 7 makes two points of great importance.  First, in verse 21, “all flesh died that moved upon the earth.”  The wickedness that caused God to repent of creating man is, by the flood, washed off the face of the earth, and meets its just and justifiable end.  The wages of sin is death.  Second, in verse 23,  “Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.”  God remembers mercy, even in wrath, and in mercy, he spares Noah, just as He spared Adam and Eve after the Fall.  In chapter 8 God providentially preserves Noah through the flood, and recession of the waters, finally bringing him safe to dry and renewed land again.


January 6

Epiphany

Ephesians 3
Matthew 2

Epiphany is the traditional Twelfth Day of Christmas, and celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.  Christ did not become flesh just for the Jews.  He came to die for the sins of the whole world.  This does not mean every single person will be saved.  It means that the scope of the Messiah’s work is global, not limited to the Jewish people.  It is the whole world, not one nation.  Christ’s offer of grace transcends national, ethnic, and geographic barriers.  His grace is for all who believe from the whole world.

January 7

Genesis 9, Mt 5:1-21
Gen. 11,  Rom. 5

Commentary, Genesis 9 and 11.

Genesis 9 shows God placing Man in a renewed world. In a way, Noah is a new Adam.  He is placed in a new world, and good possibilities lie ahead, if he and humanity follow God.  In a similar way, the ark is like Christ.  It carries the people of God through the flood of God’s wrath to the new land of God’s promises.  Only those who enter the Ark will be saved.

Though Genesis 10 is not in the reading for today, it contains genealogy records, which are very important as we trace the linage of Christ.  They take us from Noah to Babel, and will be used to trace the line of God’s chosen people.

Unfortunately Noah and his descendants follow the spiritual path set by Adam.  Genesis 11 records their moral and spiritual decline after the flood.  It is amazing that the miraculous salvation from the flood is so  quickly forgotten.  But we are no different today.  The Lord Himself came to earth, and lived and died for us.  Like the ark, He carries His people through the flood of God’s wrath, and delivers us safely into the New World of His grace.  Yet the world is consciously putting that out of its collective memory.  Even many “Christians,” who once wept with joy at the knowledge of the Saviour, have all but forgotten Him today.

The Tower of Babel is part of man’s continuing attempt to build culture and unity on human folly rather than God’s wisdom. They were not trying to get to heaven by means of the tower.  Calling it a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” is an idiom, similar to our “sky scraper.”  Its real purpose was to unify man and create a society on earth based upon human ideas.  Such a culture is always bound to fail, as demonstrated by the death and destruction upon which all utopian societies have been built.  They fail because they are based upon the premise of the inherent good of all people.  This premise states that all people are basically good, and, if given the chance, will work together and create a world of universal peace and happiness.  But that premise is false.  People are sinners, and will pervert and misuse every kind of government and culture, no matter how lofty its founding ideals or how good they appear in theory.  This is why human history is marked by a continuous march of war, oppression, and crime.

God could have allowed man to build the tower, and to fail in his attempt to build utopia.  Instead, He intervenes in a way that shows the dissolution of this utopia is the direct judgement of God.  He confounds their language, effectively destroying their ability to communicate and co-operate in building the Tower and Utopia.  No one who lived at that time could deny that this was the judgement of God on human pride and sin.

The genealogical record is enlarged, bringing us to the conclusion of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, Abram.  He, or rather, God’s election of, and work through, him, is the subject of the next fourteen chapters of Genesis. 

January 8

Genesis 12,  Matthew 5:22-48
Genesis 13,  Romans 6

Commentary, Genesis 12 and 13

Genesis 12-25 are part of a larger section of Genesis, which proclaims God’s work with and through the people of Israel.  The chapters deal primarily with the men called to be the human leaders of Israel, whom we usually the Patriarchs.  The section begins with the call of Abram, and ends with Joseph and the people of Israel in Egypt.

To this point, the events recorded in Genesis have taken place in the area we know today as modern Iraq.  Eden, the building of the ark, and the Tower of Babel,  all occurred in this area.  Here, writing, the wheel, the 60 minute hour and 60 second minute were invented.   The Bible calls it the land of the Chaldees, and Abram lived in the city of Ur of the Chaldees.  Abram is called to leave this land, and the geographic center of the Bible moves to Canaan, which we now know as Israel.

God has been guiding history toward Abram.  He is a new Noah, a new Seth, and, in a way, a new Adam.  Thus, the Covenant, which is God’s promise of grace and blessing, is renewed with Abram.  Many mistakenly think people in the Old Testament were saved by works, specifically keeping the moral and ceremonial law.  But no person has ever been saved by works.  Grace alone saves sinners, and the Covenant with Abram is the Covenant of Grace, the continuation of the grace of God on fallen man.  When Adam sinned, God did not require him or his descendants to make themselves right with God by the law.  He dealt with them in grace.  His Covenant Promise was always that if people turned to Him in faith He would be their God, bless them,  and forgive their sins.  By His grace, they would experience something similar to the joy and fellowship with God Adam and Eve had in the Garden.  It would not be perfect, because they would not keep the Covenant perfectly.  But it would be far better than the culture created by human endeavour before the Flood and in the Tower of Babel.  They would be His people.  They would worship Him and serve Him in gratitude for the grace poured out on them.

The Covenant includes the promise of the Saviour by whom the Fall and the Curse will be cancelled.  Through the Saviour, sin is paid for and forgiveness is offered.  This same Saviour will finally restore those who have followed Him in faith to full and complete perfection and fellowship.

In Genesis 13 Abram is safely returned to Canaan after a brief sojourn in Egypt.  But strife among the chosen people causes Lot to depart from them.  This is a crushing blow to Abram, who probably wants Lot to stay nearby rather than leave completely.  But God reiterates His Covenant of Grace.  That Covenant is still in effect.  The defection of Lot does not diminish it, nor does it diminish the promise of uncounted descendants.  Many of those descendants are the spiritual children of Abram through faith in Jesus Christ.

January 9

Gen. 14,  Mt. 6:1-16  
Gen. 15,  Rom.7

Commentary, Genesis 14 and 15

Chapter 14 records a war waged by the pagan tribes of Canaan against the eastern kings named in verse 1.  If Lot had remained with Abram, he would be safely away from the battle,  But Lot lives in Sodom, and is captured when that city falls in battle.  He is being taken to Assyria, probably as a slave, when Abram raids the camp and frees Lot.

The most striking event in this chapter, however, is not the battle, won by Abram and a few other small tribes against a much larger army of professional soldiers.  It is the appearance of Melchizedic, king of Salem  and priest of the Most High God, to whom Abram pays a tithe of all the spoils taken from the invaders.  He is regarded as an Old Testament appearance of Christ, the great and eternal High Priest of God.

In chapter 15 Abram is reminded that it was God who gave him victory in battle, and saved Lot.  God was, and is his shield.  He is also Abram’s great reward.  The land and the descendants are wonderful, but  they are secondary to God.

Abram has a difficult time understanding this.  His mind is still on the land and the descendants when, in verses 2 and 8, he asks God how he can know he will receive the land.  In spite of this misunderstanding, verse 6 records a very important fact about Abram: he believed God.  His wife was past child bearing age, and he didn’t own even a tiny piece of Canaan.  But he believed God would give him descendants and land.  He took God at His word.  We also have a word from God.  We call it the Bible.  It is the word of God as surely as if it had come from His own mouth.  Let us, like Abram believe God.

God accounts Abram’s faith as righteousness.  In other words, Abram believes God is dealing with him in undeserved grace.  He has not earned Canaan, nor has he earned God’s favour.  Yet God has promised to give him both, and Abram receives them by faith.  Thus, we see throughout the Old Testament salvation by grace through faith, not by works.

Abram may have thought the promise was going to be fulfilled at that very moment.  But God tells him his descendants will not take ownership of the land until they have been strangers and servants in another land for four hundred years.  Immediately after this shocking revelation, God reassures  Abram   that the promise will happen.

January 10

Gen. 16,  Mt. 6:17
Gen. 17,  Rom. 8

Commentary

 Genesis 16 and 17
Abram’s faith, like everyone else’s is feeble.  In chapter 16 he decides God needs his help to produce an heir through which his descendants will inherit Canaan.  The idea is suggest by his wife, Sarai.  She is probably more concerned about having someone to care for her and her husband in their old age, than about promises of inheriting the land and numerous descendants.  A son of Abram might be kindly disposed toward her, and guarantee security and care for the rest of her life.  Abram sees this as a way to get an heir, and probably convinces himself it is God’s will.  It is not God’s will.  It is a terrible sin. The suffering of Hagar and Ishmael, and the continuing enmity between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac would never have happened if Abram had not committed it.  Our sins can have consequences for millions of people yet unborn.


In Genesis 17 we see the beginning of Old Testament circumcision.  Most of the tribes and peoples of the ancient near east and Africa practiced male and female circumcision at or near puberty.  Most of it had a sexual connotation.  Old Testament circumcision is completely different.  It symbolises putting off sin, and complete dedication of body and soul to God.  It also symbolises Abram’s acceptance of and commitment to the Covenant God makes with him.  In this sense it is very much like Christian baptism, which replaces circumcision in the New Testament.  At this time Abram’s name is changed to Abraham, “Father of Multitudes.”  The Jewish custom of naming the child at circumcision, and the Christian practice of naming a child at baptism both come from this.