Friday, 3 January 2014

(4) January 4: Genesis 9-11 and Matthew 4

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:
As you read consider what the point of the genealogies is?

To ponder:
The big idea here is covenant. Like marriage, it’s a formal agreement between two parties, including promises and provisos. Here the proviso is that human life is not taken. This ‘Noahic’ covenant is like a railway embankment. On its guarantee of continual life on earth God will lay the track upon which the gospel train will run.
            It all feels like a new start. Evil seems eradicated. A new world appears as the waters recede just as in chapter 1. The commission to fill and subdue is repeated. You might wonder whether things will now go well. But there is difference: Creatures will fear man. Violence is anticipated. Even Noah and sons fall into wrongdoing. So despite all the potential of politics and education, sin needs an internal solution. Human nature needs changing if evil is to be no more.
            God so governs even the declarations of the patriarchs that their blessings and curses reflect what he will do in subsequent history. 9v24-27 look to the subjection of the land of Canaan to Israel and even the gathering to God’s people of the Gentile nations descended from Japheth. Chapter 10 then records the populating of the known world in Israel’s day (our Middle East and North Africa). This sets the stage for Israel’s coming scenes.
            The notorious Babylon first takes this stage. It feels so contemporary: Men should seek God’s greatness and fill the earth. Instead they gather together, and with their God-imaging creativity seek a name for themselves. God confuses their languages in mercy - to restrain what might be achieved. This should breed caution today as the limits of language break down.
            Throughout we learn that salvation must come through judgement. Evil must be eradicated if a good world is ever to be. Judgement day must precede the new creation (Rev 20-21). More than that, Christ must change the very nature of those he calls if the new creation is not then to be corrupted (Heb 12v23). This all begins at Pentecost: The disunity of Babel is overcome. All nations are called to the tent of Shem’s greatest descendent, and the Spirit starts his work with them (Acts 2).

Praying it home:
Praise God for how perfectly he will bring about the perfect and incorruptible world to come. Pray he would keep you and your children aware of the limits of politics and education and so of the world’s need of the gospel.

Thinking further:
Under inspiration, Bible writers sometimes rearrange events in order to make a theological point. So the gathering of all peoples in chapter 11 must have actually occurred before their spreading out as recorded in chapter 10. 9v3 is intriguing. In the fertile pre-fall world the diet was to be predominantly vegetarian (1v29-30). Now however, with growing crops from the land so toilsome and edible vegetation more scarce (3v17-19), God kindly affirms the appropriateness of eating meat. The qualification of v4 would have been understood to forbid eating meat if the blood had not been drained (Lev 19v26). This might have been to highlight the later theological importance of blood, or just maintain a respect for animal life.

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