November 29, 2010

E100, Lesson 6, The Call of Abram

The Call of Abram, Genesis 12.1—20

The great themes of the following chapters in Genesis, from chapter 12 all the way through to chapter 50 will be the promised seed and the promised land which this little band of God’s chosen people cling to for their hope and future. The promise of a son dominates chapters 12 through 20. After Isaac’s birth the story follows the succeeding line of heirs.

Just as it was in the beginning of the story of creation, the story of God’s plan of redemption begins with God, speaking. God calls out to Abram and tells him to break with his past, and embark on a new and foreign path. Abram is to leave the familiar and the well known and to head towards a vague and uncertain future: “the land that [God] will show [him]” in due time. Abram, is therefore, called to act in faith, trusting that God means him well and will bless him if he does what he is called to do. Here, even before the great passage in chapter 15 where ‘God reckons Abram righteous because he believes’ we see Abram the man of faith, willing to trust in the Lord and act in the way he believes God is calling him. Please note the two key elements to righteousness: 1) trusting in God and 2) actively living out God’s calling on our life.

Finally, Abram makes his first journey to Egypt where he takes advantage of his host by deceiving him. He lies about his relationship to Sarai, his wife, and causes God’s judgment to fall upon Pharaoh. Deciding to respond to God’s calling does not set us free from sin. For that we will need a Savior.

Comments on the text:

12:1 God called the man and woman He intended to become the parents of a chosen race of people. That is odd because Abraham is seventy-five and Sarai is barren. They are not exactly the model of fertility.

2-3 Here is God’s promise. God promises to make Abram into a great nation, to bless him and to make him a blessing to others,

4 Lot is Abram’s nephew, the son of his brother Haran.

5 the land of Canaan is the modern day Palestine and Israel.

6 Shechem, was a pass between two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim. It was marked out as a place of decision. At Shechem the Israelites were assembled to choose between blessing and curse (Deuteronomy 11.29-30) he Joshua would give his last charge (Joshua 24) and here the Kingdom of Solomon would be split into two and Samaria would be created (1Kings 12)

7 God made himself known to Abraham and granted him the land and Abram’s first act was to worship the Lord. Abram built an altar there.
8 Abraham continued on into the heart of Palestine and built another altar between Bethel and Ai. Bethel translates “The House of God” and Ai translates “the ruin.” Abram built another altar to the LORD and worshipped him there.

9—20 “The prime importance of this story,” comments Derek Kidner, “is its bearing on the promise of land and people.” Abram has been given a calling and a vision from God but the vision will be repeatedly challenged by circumstances and Abram will repeatedly compromise God’s plan through his own sinful intervention. Abram finds himself in the promised land but the risk of famine causes him to abandon it and flee to apparent abundance in a foreign, pagan land. It would require plagues to restore Sarai to her destiny and deportation to get Abram back to Canaan.

E100 Prize Question for Sunday, December 12th:
What is the first thing we are told Abram did when he got to Shechem?

Study Questions:
Have you ever had to trust in God? Where and when? How did it feel? How did it turn out?

How do you think Abram felt as he packed up and got ready to leave his home in Haran? How would you have felt?

Sometimes God calls us to give up something familiar to us and to venture into something new that we don’t know very much about. Have you ever felt like you ought to explore something new in your life? What was it?

Is God calling you to explore something new now?

What do you think caused Abram to get into trouble in Egypt? How might he have avoided the trouble?

E100, Lesson 5, The Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel, Genesis 11.1—9

In the story of Babel the primeval history of humanity comes to a conclusion. Humanity realizing they have creative abilities seek to glorify and fortify themselves through collective efforts. Their plan is grandiose. People who feel vulnerable, gather together and build a fortified tower for themselves. They determine to build a tower that reaches to heaven. The express purpose is to “make a name for themselves,” to glorify themselves, to make themselves feel safe by building up great fortifications around them.

God comes to view the project and He sees that when they come together they are able to accomplish virtually anything, and God does not conclude that unity and creative strength is good for humanity. Remember what God said after the flood? In Gen 8.21, after the flood, God says, “…the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. An humanity, intent on evil, is destined to use their collective abilities for evil purposes as well. And so God determines to keep them divided by confusing their language. The problem is the human heart, and until the human heart is somehow transformed for good, unity is no good.

The Day of Pentecost opened a new chapter in the story with God opening the ears of people to hear the Gospel message in their own tongue, restoring unity among all people around a saving message. This gospel message has the ability to turn the human heart towards good and so God reverses himself. This is the reversal foretold by the prophet Zephaniah in chapter 3, verse 9: "For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the LORD, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder.”

Comments on the text:
11:1 “used the same language”, literally, “the same set of words”

2 “the land of Shinar” refers to Mesopotamia, that land between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. That area is located in modern day Iraq. Later, Ur, is in this same area and God calls Abram out of Ur.

4 there are, in fact, towers that fit the description of a tower that were built in ancient Mesopotamia. They are called ugarits and the remains of them have been excavated in modern times.

5-8 this is actually a word play. Earlier we are told that humanity came to the project, they “came” to the area and they “came” to build. Now God comes to the project and when he sees what they are about God comes to confuse their language. God comes and confuses the peoples and scatters them.

9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew word Balal which means “to confuse.”

E100 Prize Question for Sunday, December 5th:
In what modern country would Shinar have been? What is another name for that region?

Study Questions:

What do you think motivated the people to build the tower?

Have you ever felt vulnerable and afraid? How did you respond? Did you seek to control your environment? Did you flee?

What is the significance of God confusing the people’s languages? What does this have to do with God giving everyone the ability to understand the words of the disciples on the day of Pentecost?

If God wanted any message to be understood universally, what would that message be?

November 23, 2010

E100, Lesson Four: God's Covenant with Noah

Essential 100 Scripture Passages
Gen. 8.1—9.17, God’s Covenant with Noah

8.1 In Hebrew “remembering is not simply bringing to mind but actually taking action on behalf of Noah.

.2 The word for “wind” is the same word used in Genesis 1.2. Here, in chapter 8 we have a very intentional retelling of the Creation story. God separates the water from the ground, places birds in the air, animals were sent forth to multiply upon the earth, etc.

.3 The flood abates very gradually.

.4 The precise location of Mount Ararat is unknown but it is somewhere in the Northern Turkey or Armenia area.

.6-12 Noah sends birds out to test the land. When the dove returns with an olive branch (a sign of peace) Noah knows that there is land and that plants have started to grow once more.

.13-19 Noah and his family and all the living creatures in the ark are set free to resume life on the dry land.

.20 Noah’s first act after being restored to the land is to build a place of worship and to make a sacrificial offering to the Lord. Worship is always our first privilege and duty.

.21 Noah’s worship was pleasing to the Lord. God determines to never again curse the ground or destroy the wildlife, because He says, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Humanity can’t seem to help themselves.

.22 God promises that the growing seasons will endure as long as the earth itself endures.

9.1-7 This continues the recreation imagery. As he did with Adam and Eve, he blesses Noah and his family and tells them to be fruitful and multiply. He gives them dominion over all the animals, and declares them good to eat, except for carrion and animal blood.

.8-11 God makes the promise he made to himself in verse 8.21 known to Noah and his sons

.12-17 God gives a sign to affirm the covenant he has made—a rainbow. And he says that the sign will remind him to be compassionate, and it will remind the people of God’s promise.

Sunday’s Prize Question:
Noah sent two sorts of birds out from the ark in search of dry land. What sorts of birds were they?

Discussion Questions:
1. What things most powerfully remind you that God loves you?
2. What is one thing you could do today to show God that you are grateful for his love?

November 15, 2010

E100 Challenge 3 Noah and the Flood

Genesis 6.5—7.24 Noah and the Flood

Chapter 6

5-6 What had begun as a small act of disobedience in the garden (Adam and Eve eating from the tree God forbid them to eat) has, over time, become widespread wickedness. In the beginning God had called his Creation “good” but by the time of Noah God can find no good remaining. And God regrets having made man. “God grieved in his heart.” God’s desires and God’s hopes had been dashed. People, given a choice, turn away from God and embrace evil.

7 And God determined to destroy the creatures he had made. Please note that humanity’s sin infected all of creation, not just human beings—all creatures became detestable before God.

8 The exception: Noah. Noah found favor in God’s eyes.

9 Noah possessed three characteristics that explain God’s favor towards him. He was “righteous.” He was “blameless.” And he “walked with God.” The third characteristic: “he walked with God,” explains how Noah was able to remain righteous and blameless.

10 Noah’s sons will survive the flood because they are his offspring

11-12 A restatement of verses 5 and 6

13-17 God informed Noah of the impending flood. And He instructed Noah to build a ship. The ship (ark) would carry Noah and his family. It would guard and protect the seed of a new creation.

18-21 God would spare Noah, his sons and their wives. He would also spare one breeding pair of every creature in earth. God’s mercy is great. Even in the face of great evil God spared his creation from total destruction and provided the means for life to go on.

22 Noah obeyed God’s command to build an ark and equip it as God directed. Of course! Noah “walked with God.”

Chapter 7

1-5 When the time had come God ordered Noah to pack up. He told him to get the animals onboard. He told him that in seven days the flood would begin. Once again, Noah obeyed.

6 Noah was 600 years old when the flood began. Before the flood the ages of people were reported in the hundreds of years rather than the tens of years ever since.

7-20 We are told the specifics of the how and when the flood came to pass, and about Noah’s activity to load the ark with the “living creatures.” The flood lifted up the ark with all the pairs of animals and the remainder of the earth was flooded. Even the high mountain tops were covered by 15 cubits. A cubit is about 20 inches (the length of a forearm from the end of one’s fingers to the elbow).

21-23 All flesh on earth died. Only Noah and the contents of his fragile little ship survived.

24 The flood continued for nearly six months

Sunday Morning Prize Question:
What were the names of Noah’s three sons?

Study questions:
Do you think that people continue to turn away from God and to prefer evil in our lives? Can you site an example?

Why do you think God spared Noah and his family?

Sometimes being spared isn’t so easy. Noah and his family had to endure great hardship in order to be spared. Can you remember a time in your life when God was “sparing” you?

November 8, 2010

E100, Lesson 2 The Fall, Genesis Chapter 3

Genesis, chapter 2 ends with a statement that men and women were naked and were not ashamed. Human beings were plainly visible, nothing was hidden, and there was nothing about which they needed to be ashamed. There was no reason to hide from God’s eyes. In chapter 3 that all changes very quickly so that by verse 10 the man says to God, “I was afraid [of God] because I was naked; and I hid myself.” So, what happened in those intervening verses? Sin happened. Rebellion happened. The Fall happened.

1 the craftiest of all God’s creatures was the serpent and the serpent engaged Eve in a conversation about God; specifically the question posed revolves around the command God gave to Adam and Eve. The serpent wants to know if God commanded them to ‘not eat’ from a tree in the garden.
2 And the woman responded by answering the serpent’s question. On the positive side, God gave them permission to eat from every tree in the garden but one. (Interesting to note that among the trees that they could have eaten was the tree of [eternal] life; but they never chose to eat from it.)
3 But God said, “you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree in the center of the Garden,” that is, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God assigned a consequence to disobedience. He said, “if you eat of it you will die.”
4 The serpent contradicts God’s word and he has been contradicting God’s word ever since. He says,” you will not die.” He lied. In fact he is the Father of lies.
5 The serpent makes the claim that if the man and the woman betray God and eat of the tree they will become wise, like God is wise. They will no longer need God’s direction. They will be able to choose for themselves.
6 The woman comes to believe that the fruit is not poison, that it is beautiful and that it was desirable to eat because it would make them wise. And so, she eats, but only after she has decided to betray God’s command and to ignore God’s warning. And not only did she eat but the man ate as well. We want to believe that sin is not sin. We want to believe that what God has commanded us to avoid will actually be good for us. There is a beauty to forbidden fruit and we really do desire it. We are all too ready to ignore the warning signs.
7 Having eaten their eyes were, indeed, opened. They see themselves in the light of not only good—as God intended and as God created them to be—but also as evil. They are ashamed of their nakedness. The unvarnished truth is that they are now good AND evil. And the sight is so repugnant to them that they fashion clothing to cover themselves. In our day we clothe ourselves in denial, justification, and transference.
8 God walked in the Garden and up until now they had been happy to see him. They had been completely open about who they were. Now that they have disobeyed God and they see that they are not only good but evil as well, now they hide from God. They fear their Creator. They are ashamed of what they have become and recognize that punishment is deserved.
9 God calls out to his people. Even as he discovers their sins and rebellion God seeks a conversation with them. God wants to be in relationship with them still.
10 Adam says, ‘I heard you coming and was afraid of you.’ He says he was afraid because he recognized he was naked before God. He hid rather than allow God to see his naked self. How often do we hide from God rather than let him see the reality of our lives?
11 God does not need to be told what happened. He asks Adam because his people need to rehearse the cause of their demise. The acted out in a way God had commanded them not to act.
12 The man blames the woman. The blame game is still the number one defense for men and women alike.
13 The woman, in turn, blames the serpent. She claims that her virtue was overcome by the deceptive acts of others. She was misled. This too is a commonly exercised defense.
14 God curses the serpent and an explanation is given for serpents having no appendages.
15 Here is the Proto-evagelion: Note that God foretells the birth of a child who will be at odds with the serpent’s offspring and that child will crush the serpent’s head even as the serpent strikes the child. A child of Eve will crush evil but not without cost. The child will be felled by evil, if only temporarily.
16 The consequences of rebellion fall on the woman as well: painful childbirth; a desire for her husband that will assure more painful childbirths; and her husband ruling over her.
17 18 and 19 The consequences of rebellion fall on the man as well: the ground, from which the man grows his food and finds his living will be cursed. It will require great effort and pain (toil) to bring forth the food required to sustain him. Hard work, exertion shall be required all his life long, and at the end of his time he will return to the cursed ground—he will die. The warning God had given was true. They ate of the forbidden fruit. They must die.
20 Eve resembles the Hebrew word living. She is the mother of all living.
21 God does not want his people to live in shame. He fashions suitable clothing for them.
22 God does not allow fallen humanity to eat from the tree of eternal life. This is an act of mercy. God does not want to condemn us to an eternity of sin and separation from God.
23 God banishes man from the Garden where the tree of eternal life is found. The man will have to toil and sweat but he will return to the ground from which he was taken.
24 Adam and Eve did not want to go and they had to be driven out and to prevent their return God placed angels at the gate, not little chubby babes with wings but soldier angels, armed and dangerous angels to prevent their approaching the tree of life. There is no hope of eternal life unless the promise God made to the serpent comes true. If the child crushes the serpent’s head and mankind is released from their sins, then the gate to eternal life can once again be opened and mankind can, at last, eat from the tree of eternal life.

Sunday November 14th Prize Question:
What was the weapon God chose to protect the entrance to the Garden?

Study Questions:
Do you believe in sin? If so, how would you define it? Is that different than the way most people you know define sin?
Does sin have consequences? If so, what are they?
Why do you think Adam and Eve made excuses for their disobedience? What sorts of excuses do we make?
Have you ever considered the possibility that God’s punishment might actually be merciful? Can you name a situation where you or someone you know had to suffer consequences for a bad choice but they found a blessing in the consequences?