Pastor’s Bible Reading Notes -Aug 5/18

2018 Devotions in Genesis: This past year we focused on some of the Old Testament ‘fathers in the faith’ such as Abraham, Jacob and his son Joseph. Without a thorough knowledge of God’s ways in the Old Testament, where God planted so many seeds of Gospel truth, we cannot properly understand the ‘harvest’ of those seeds in the life of the New Testament church. For example, think of Jesus’ teaching about the need to be ready for His return at any moment in Matthew 24:36-46. How are we to understand Jesus’ words warning against spiritual unpreparedness at His second coming if we don’t understand Noah? In fact, Jesus compares apathy in His day to the “days of Noah” when the flood came so unexpectedly (Matthew 24:37-39). To Noah, therefore, we turn for several weeks of notes now.

 

Monday: read Genesis 5:28-6:4. We tend to underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, sometimes expecting the third person in the Trinity to only show up at, in Michael Horton’s words, “the last scene of the movie” – Pentecost! To the contrary, how important it is for us to see His work from the beginning – giving life not only to the creation in Genesis 1:2, but also bestowing the gift of faith on those called by adopting grace to be called “sons of God” (Genesis 4:26)! From this chosen, holy line Noah’s father Lamech proceeded. Therefore, when the child was born, he by faith called him (Genesis 5:29) ‘Noah,’ meaning ‘rest.’ Lamech saw in his birth that God would use Noah to provide ‘rest’ through the comforting work of the Holy Spirit at work in his life and covenant offspring for years to come!

 

Meditate and Pray: Thank God that His Spirit never abandons this fallen world! Even after the flood, God called and enabled Noah to offer sacrifices for sin and restored fellowship in Genesis 8:21! God responded in forgiving grace as He smelled the sweet savor of these burnt offerings! Also note this: the smell of the sacrifices Noah offered were literally a “savor of rest” – the very same root word behind the name Noah! Thus Lamech’s prophecy about his son came true, as Noah by faith looked forward to the coming of Christ, whose shed blood would indeed provide a permanent, abiding peace and rest between God and His forgiven people.

 

Tues/Weds: read Genesis 6:1-4 and Psalm 104:27-30. We learn from the words of Psalm 104:27-30 (our current theme verse on the front of our church bulletins) that all creation depends God’s common grace towards all He has made to survive from one day until the next. Only when the face of God shines forth in the providential work and care of His Holy Spirit does the creation enjoy the good things of this world, including food and the breath of life. When God hides His face and withdraws His life-giving Spirit, the whole creation (Psalm 104:29) perishes. Without the ongoing breath of life which the person of the Holy Spirit supplies, the creatures of this world, including man, are literally filled with “dismay” or “terror.” The idea here is that, without the Holy Spirit’s ongoing “hovering” in life-giving power over the whole creation, the creatures God has made descend into trembling, alarm and fear, hurrying towards a hopeless destruction.

 

“But wait” (the objector to this teaching about the Holy Spirit’s control and influence over all creation may say):

 

  • “Doesn’t this world just run on its own according to natural laws?”
  • “I don’t see a sense of the Divine present in the tooth and claw of this suffering world!”
  • “I especially don’t see such a dependence on God’s Creator Spirit in man, whose scientific discoveries have marginalized belief in a Creator and Sustainer of life!”
  • “People may privately believe in such a God, but where is the world which trembles with fear when God is absent?”

 

The answer to such skepticism is to affirm that the suppression of these truths by unbelieving man does not prove that God is absent or silent when it comes to challenging men in their unbelief!  Just because men scoff at the presence of God in His creation, as they scoffed at the flood in Noah’s day, and scoff at the warning of a final judgement to come (2 Peter 3:3-4), does not mean that mankind’s unbelieving prejudices against God are true! For the reality is that, according to Genesis 6:3, God still contends by His Spirit in men’s consciences as He did for centuries before the flood! Men are convicted by the Spirit of God (John 16:8-11) of “sin, righteousness and judgment”! Try as they might to evade Him, their conscience bears witness to the Divine realities they won’t admit.

 

Meditate and Pray: Sing with praise about God’s revelation through creation, using the words of John Milton’s hymn # 367 in our Trinity hymnal:

 


The Lord will come and not be slow;
His footsteps cannot err;
Before Him righteousness shall go,
His royal harbinger.

Mercy and truth, that long were missed,
Now joyfully are met;
Sweet peace and righteousness have kissed,
And hand in hand are set.


Rise, God, judge Thou the earth in might,
This wicked earth redress;
For Thou art He who shalt by right
The nations all possess.

The nations all whom Thou hast made
Shall come, and all shall frame
To bow them low before Thee, Lord!
And glorify Thy Name!


Thurs/Fri: read Genesis 4:25-26 and 6:1-7. The rise of the ungodly in any generation causes much pain and grief to those chosen by God’s grace and adopted to be His people. For example, in the days after the horrific murder of Abel, blood-guilty Cain established his own godless culture built on immorality and violence in Genesis 4:23-24. The reaction of godly Seth, and the line of faith which came from him, was to “call out to the Lord” for His help and protection. Though Seth’s line was weak and fearful (the very name of Seth’s son “Enosh” means weakling), they nonetheless had the courage of faith by which they were enabled to call upon the Lord and gain the victory which alone faith gives in overcoming the world (Genesis 4:25-26). But sadly, some of those who professed to be “sons of God” in Genesis 4:26 eventually fell away and took up ungodly marriages with the “daughters of unbelieving men” in Genesis 6:1-2.  The result was the increase of wickedness throughout the earth through these mixed marriages between the Old Testament church and the ungodly spiritual offspring of Cain – something so grievous that two things happened.

 

First, those who had been greatly gifted by God used their renown to become greatly sinful in Genesis 6:4. They came to be known as “Nephilim,” meaning “fellers” (from the verb “naphal” to cause to fall). In other words, they were those who used their wickedness to cause the “fall” of the victims of their violence, and created fear in those they attacked by their great skill in arms and cruelty. Many were also known for their fearsome size. That is why this very same “race” shows up in Numbers 13:32-33 – called “Nephilim” once again. Clearly this is a spiritual term for the great wickedness of generations given over to sin until they become “giants” in sin and wickedness. Though the flood destroyed such “giants” of sin once in Genesis 6, their spiritual wickedness survived in the depravity of the human heart, to rise up once again in the land of Canaan!

 

The second result of this terrible rise of wickedness before the flood was the grief God expresses over it. In other words, the only way in which the Scripture can properly describe God’s revulsion at man’s sin is to say that God “repented” or “regretted” that He had made man in Genesis 6:6. Clearly this is a statement about man’s sin, and not about God’s making a mistake in the creation of man. God never errs. He does not need to repent because of any weakness or mistake in His sovereign plan and rule over all things. He works all things for good (Romans 8:28), even the fall of man into the grievous sins of Genesis 6. But in order that sin might be seen in its full darkness and perversity, there is simply no other way for the Bible to describe God’s response to it than to say that man deserved to be regretted over by his Creator God! Such wickedness grieves the Potter – even if He is able to endure “the vessel ordained for destruction” according to Romans 9:22. Once God’s patience with evil comes to an end, each generation of the wicked is destroyed by the flood of God’s judgments – as a harbinger of the final judgment to come.

 

Meditate and Pray: Sing about the sure judgment of God from Luther’s hymn # 321:

 


Great God, what do I see and hear?
The end of things created!
The Judge of mankind doth appear,
On clouds of glory seated.
The trumpet sounds, the graves restore,
The dead which they contained before!
Prepare, my soul, to meet Him.

The dead in Christ shall first arise
At the last trumpet’s sounding.
Caught up to meet Him in the skies,
With joy their Lord surrounding.
No gloomy fears their souls dismay,
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet Him.


 


But sinners, filled with guilty fears,
Behold His wrath prevailing.
In woe they rise, but all their tears
And sighs are unavailing.
The day of grace is past and gone;
Trembling they stand before His throne,
All unprepared to meet Him.

Great God, to Thee my spirit clings,
Thy boundless love declaring.
One wondrous sight my comfort brings,
The Judge my nature wearing.
Beneath His cross I view the day
When Heav’n and earth shall pass away,
And thus prepare to meet Him.


Sat/Sun: read Genesis 6:5-10. The most important miracle in the story of Noah is the miracle of God’s grace. Despite the universal wickedness and depravity of all mankind, so that God can say of all men (including Noah) that “the thoughts and inclinations of their hearts are only wicked all the time” (Genesis 6:5 and 8:21), God nevertheless decides to show grace and favor to Noah and his family. This favor with God meant Noah’s salvation, and was not earned but rather “found” as God determined to give Noah the eyes of faith to know Him as His God.

 

The word translated “favor” confirms that it was God’s grace that “found” Noah, rather than Noah’s good works earning that favor. It means literally to “bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior.” God Himself reveals the undeserved favor which He shows to men like Noah in using the same word in Exodus 33:19, where He reveals His goodness to Moses in terms of such unmerited grace:

 

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy to whom I show mercy.”

 

There’s our word: It speaks of God’s pity and compassion for sinners, and His determination to show them unexpected and unlooked for saving grace and favor – as He did Noah in Genesis 6:8.

 

Meditate and Pray: Sing about God as a God of unconditional grace in hymn # 82:

 


Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are matchless, Godlike and divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace
More Godlike and unrivaled shine,
More Godlike and unrivaled shine.

Crimes of such horror to forgive,
Such guilty, daring worms to spare;
This is Thy grand prerogative,
And none shall in the honor share,
And none shall in the honor share.

 


Angels and men, resign your claim
To pity, mercy, love and grace:
These glories crown Jehovah’s Name
With an incomparable glaze
With an incomparable glaze.

In wonder lost, with trembling joy,
We take the pardon of our God:
Pardon for crimes of deepest dye,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood,
A pardon bought with Jesus’ blood.


 

Refrain:

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

 

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