Sunday 30 September 2012

Read with me: Genesis 8

The inner storm

I preached on Genesis 8 three years ago at the Chinese Church. What I tried to do then was recount Noah’s perspective of the events of the flood from within the ark. The storm has passed. The waters have subsided. Yet much of Genesis 8 is given to describing how Noah waited in the ark and waited for God’s word.

Here in these verses we see a different storm - one which raged within Noah’s heart.

When you have been through an intense emotional experience, the external conditions may change but it takes time for your internals to respond to that change. Your heart does not have an on-off switch.

Last week Genesis 7 focussed on the outer storm, but here Genesis 8 gives us a glimpse into the inner storm – the turmoil within Noah’s heart.

Read with me: Genesis 7

The waters of judgement

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.
2 Peter 3:5-6

Even as a kid (and a non-Christian), I had learned of Noah’s ark through cartoon story books depicting the flood as one big adventure - a floating zoo with jolly Noah as its captain. In reality, the flood is one of most devastating judgements of God in all the bible.

Here in Chapter 7, it is as if the floodwaters themselves come alive as an active agent of God’s judgement. The repeated chorus, “the waters prevailed... the waters prevailed...” could just as well describe an unstoppable military force overwhelming its opponent.

     [7:4] “For seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights...”
     [7:6] “Noah (and his family) went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.”
     [7:10] “After seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.”
     [7:11] “... all the fountains of the great deep burst forth...”
[7:12] “And rain fell...” (Waters above... and waters below)
It is worth recounting God’s act of separating the waters on the 2nd day of creation (Genesis 2:7). What is happening here is the reversal of that act.
     [7:17] “The flood continued forty days...”
“The waters increased and bore up the ark.”
     [7:18] “The waters prevailed and increased greatly...”
     [7:19] “The waters prevailed so mightily on the earth...”
     [7:20] “The waters prevailed above the mountains...”
     [7:23] “He blotted (washed away) every living thing... They were blotted out from the earth”
     [7:24] “And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.”

Yet, these same waters of judgement become God’s means of salvation. [7:17] “The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.”

The apostle Peter explains how Noah and his family were saved - not from - but through these waters. “... when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” (1 Peter 3:20)

Where else in scripture do we see an agent of God’s judgement become the very source of our salvation?

Read with me: Genesis 6

God’s grief & God’s grace (Chapter 6:1-8)

[6:5] “The LORD saw the wickedness of man was great...” The increase of man upon the earth only results in the increase of his rebellion against God. “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

The identity of the “sons of God” (verses 2 and 4) is a source of much scholarly debate. Some suggest they refer to angels. More likely, Genesis is referring to the line of Adam outlined in Chapter 5. Theirs is the sin of their ancestor Eve, “(they) saw... and they took... any they chose.” The new 120 year limitation on lifespan also makes more sense in light of the decreasing age of death in each successive generation we see in Adam’s genealogy. Either that, or Genesis is counting down God’s judgement of the flood.

[6:6] “And the LORD regretted (possibly even, repented) that he had made man on the earth.” God is deeply affected by our sin. “It grieved him to his heart.” Verse 7: “I am sorry that I have made them.”

[6:7] “I will blot out man...” God’s judgement upon man whom he has created in seen in his judgement upon all creation, “Man and animals and creeping things and the birds of the heavens.” To blot out means to wipe/wash away (pointing forward to the flood, perhaps?), an expression often used to describe the erasure of a line of writing. Psalm 69:26, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.”

God is about to start afresh, not simply with man, but with all creatio. He plans to “reboot” the earth.

[6:8] “But Noah found favour (hen=grace) in the eyes of the LORD.” Grace means Noah’s salvation is not earned nor deserved.

Noah’s righteousness & obedience (Chapter 6:9-22)

[6:9] “Noah was a righteous man.” Saddiq (righteousness) never refers to an inner character of uprightness, rather describes an outer, visible, active quality of a person. Noah was one who acted righteously. Almost immediately, Genesis tells us how, “Noah walked with God.” And the the rest of the chapter illustrates how his righteousness is lived out - in obedience to God’s spoken word.

For the rest of the chapter, God alone speaks. He reveals his plans to Noah. He gives detailed instructions on building the ark. He makes his covenant with Noah.

     [6:13] “God said to Noah...”
     [6:14] “Make yourself an ark...Make rooms... cover it.”
     [6:15] “This is how you are to make it...”
     [6:16] “Make a roof... make it with … decks.”
     [6:18] “You shall come into the ark...”
     [6:19] “ Every living thing.... you shall bring two of every sort...”
     [6:21] “Take with you every sort of food... store it up.”

[6:22] Noah responds with obedience. “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Sanballat Chicken

We have had this dish at Rock Fellowship almost every single week for the last six years. It is easy, cheap and very, very tasty. Best of all, anyone can make this. It’s Sanballat Chicken*!


1.    One whole chicken
2.    Tomato ketchup (the cheap 15p bottle from Sainsburys will do)
3.    Sugar
4.    Chilli oil (optional)

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 hours (leave in oven and use the time to prepare for the bible study)


1.    Give your chicken a good wash and place it on a baking dish.
Tip: Line your dish with foil to make it easier to wash up.

2.    Empty out half the bottle of ketchup onto the chicken and spoon out four heaped tablespoons of sugar onto the mess.

3.    If you have chilli oil, add one tablespoon. Don’t worry about the spiciness as it tends to mellow out in the bake.

4.    This is the messy bit. Using both hands, mix and smother the mixture all round the chicken.

5.    Bake chicken in oven at 150-160 degrees.
This temperature is low enough that the skin won’t burn. (So just leave it alone and go prepare for the bible study!)
However, you do need to let it cook for at least 1 hour for a medium chicken (or 1.5 hours for a large chicken).

6.    Lower temperature to 100 degrees and leave in the oven for further 30 minutes.

*From the book of Nehemiah

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Evangelising Jesus (Luke 24:13-35)

Did you hear about the time when two guys tried to tell Jesus the gospel? True story.

Luke Chapter 24 tells us how two travellers were on their way back home from a Christian conference at New Word Alive when they bump into a stranger and start telling him all about the cross. Only thing is, the stranger turns out to be Jesus!

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.
Luke 24:13-16

“What are you talking about?” Jesus asks them. They were obviously engrossed in their topic of discussion, but the instant Jesus tried to get in on the conversation, the two travellers immediately stopped. “And they stood still and looked sad.” (verse 17) Jesus' question had struck a nerve.

Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Luke 24:18

Everyone knew! That’s what Cleopas meant. Everyone ought to have known! He was shocked at this stranger’s ignorance. Or perhaps, more to the point, Cleopas was deeply affected by the events that had just transpired - “the things that have happened... these days”. And yet, Jesus presses them to tell him what it was that he ought to have known. “What things?” he asked.

And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
Luke 24:19-21

Notice how the travellers didn’t merely convey information, “This happened, then that, followed by that incident...” like a newsreader on the BBC. These travellers were more concerned with explaining the meaning behind each event; how they were personally affected. “Didn’t you hear about this man, Jesus, the country boy from Nazareth? He was a prophet you know. When he spoke it was like God was speaking to us. Ask anyone, they will tell you. Many of us even saw the miracles that he did!” Cleopas and his friend (which to be fair, could either be another guy, of even his wife, the text doesn’t quite tell us) obviously had the highest regard for Jesus. Their’s was not a dispassionate retelling of events. They were giving their personal take on who Jesus was, what they had hoped Jesus would do and even - and this is quite remarkable - even, who was ultimately responsible for Jesus’ death - “Our chief priests and rulers gave him up.” Not those high-ranking officials over there, who are always messing up, “It’s all their fault.” No, they were “our” leaders. “We had hoped he would redeem Israel.”

But that’s just half the story.

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.
Luke 24:21-24

I wonder if you noticed when this encounter took place? “It is now the third day.” Look back to the beginning of Luke account, “That very day...” This is the real reason for the disappointment of the travellers: No one had seen Jesus. The tomb was empty, the body was gone, some of them even went all the way to check it out for themselves, and yes, it was “just as the women had said.” But what they really wanted to see was Jesus with their own eyes. “But him they did not see.”

What would have done at this point if you were Jesus? Most of us would have gone, “Tadaaa! Here I am! Surprise, surprise... Peekaboo!” But no, what does Jesus say to Cleopas and his friend?

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:25-26

Jesus essentially tells them the same thing they said to him, “How could you not know? How could you be so foolish?” Why did he say that? Because according to Jesus, the whole Old Testament bible had been pointing forward to the cross - “all that the prophets have spoken” about this.

And what he does next was have a bible study. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,” meaning he did a survey of the whole Old Testament bible, “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning him.”

Think about this for a moment. What was it again that Cleopas and his buddy really, really wanted? To see Jesus! What could Jesus have done which would have instantly cheered them up? Obviously, Jesus could have revealed himself there and then. Yet, do you remember why it was they couldn’t recognise Jesus in the first place? Verse 16, “Their eyes were kept from recognising him,” meaning Jesus didn’t want them to see him. At least, not yet.

Jesus knew that with Cleopas and his friend - and Jesus knows that with you and I - what we need to see in order to really see; what we need to understand in order to truly understand, is the meaning of the cross. “Was it not necessary,” Jesus says, meaning, this is the most important thing you need to know about me, “that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory.” The travellers were referring to the cross as a bad thing, a tragic thing, a shameful thing. Jesus calls it his glory.

And notice how Jesus helps them along: he opens up the bible. Now this does not mean that Jesus pulled out his hardcover ESV Study Bible, complete with maps and introduction by DA Carson. Cleopas didn’t fire up his iPhone to do a quick search on “Moses and the prophets.” The scriptures they had were in large individual scrolls, kept in the synagogue, kinda like the huge KJV bible you still see in some old churches, chained to the lectern in front of the hall for use only on Sundays.

You see, these guys knew their bibles by heart. All their lives they had been going to Sunday School, memorising bible stories and verses about the Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus, Daniel and Lion’s Den, Isaiah’s songs of prophecies, Ezekiel’s visions during the exile. What Jesus did was connect all those verses and all those stories to himself as the Christ, as the Messiah, as the crucified King. In other words, Jesus was opening their eyes to see him clearly through the lens of Scripture.

Such that when Cleopas and his friend do finally have their eyes opened, their immediate reaction was, “Didn’t our hearts burn... while he opened to us the Scriptures.” What were they saying? They had seen him in the bible with their hearts before they saw him in person with their eyes.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
Luke 24:28-32

Why is it that Christians keep coming back to the bible - on Sundays in their church gatherings, in the middle of a busy week for a study group? They even sign up for weird courses like BibleCentral! Why is that? It’s not simply to learn something new or novel.

You see, something happens when we read and reread the bible in the light of the cross; something other than just information flowing into our brains. God is using his word to change our hearts and minds. Just because you’ve read Luke’s gospel ten times over and know it by heart, doesn’t not mean you shouldn’t read it again. Cleopas and his friend knew the Old Testament by heart. They even knew the events of the cross recorded in the gospels, first-hand. But something happened when the bible was opened to them. They said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us?” God uses our reading of the bible, each time, to mould us, to change us and to renew us into the image of his Son. He uses the preaching of the bible to open eyes that were previously blind to Jesus. 

I constantly remind myself of this whenever I am preparing to preach to others - Have I preached to myself? Have I allowed God's word to sink into my own heart - is it burning inside of me? I do this especially with the all-too-familiar passages - the ones I've read and reread a thousand times - the ones, I'm tempted to say to myself, "I know this already. I don't need to be reminded of this anymore." When that happens I ask God to open his afresh word to me. To help me see Jesus and his glory in his Word.

The scary thing about this passage is that it is teaches us how possible it is to know the gospel, to preach the gospel to others, to speak it clearly, passionately and accurately to strangers - and yet to never really understand the gospel ourselves. Or as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "Lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified."

Just after this encounter, the two travellers ran back to Jerusalem to tell the apostles about Jesus. Look at how the account ends.

And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:33-35

I have been wondering what was it that Jesus did in the “breaking of bread” that caused them to recognise him. Some scholars tells us there is an echo of the feeding of five thousand, in the description of Jesus saying a blessing before breaking the bread and distributing it to his friends (verse 30). Others point to the last supper when Jesus explained the significance of the bread as his body (though here there is no wine). Still others suggest that Cleopas and his buddy noticed the nail marks in his hands when Jesus rolled up his sleeves to break the bread.

I wonder if we are looking for a detail that is too incidental in the account. Too visual. The only reason why Jesus remained with them for the meal at all was at the insistence of Cleopas and his friend. “They urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us’... So he went in to stay with them.” And the reason why they recognised Jesus, and knew he was who he was, was because these two travellers had now become followers. They had become Christians.

In the same way that their eyes were first opened to Scripture to see Jesus, so now Cleopas and his friend were able to know Jesus’ presence spiritually with them, before they could recognise his physical presence that had been with them all this while.

Friends, what Jesus did for the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, God continues to do among us today, through the preaching of God’s Word and the gathering of the church around God’s word - the gospel. God opens our eyes to see the glory of Christ through preaching of the gospel. And Jesus makes his presence powerfully known among us as we faithfully gather to hear his Word spoken to us, as his church and as the body of Christ.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:3-6

BibleCentral Style (Rap lyrics)

(To the tune of Gangnam Style by PSY)

[intro chorus]
BibleCentral Style
...Central Style

The bible’s God’s word, the revelation of salvation
Through Jesus Christ his Son the one who took our condemnation
To all who are called
to trust in him they will be given
Full forgiveness, restoration..

No other word, for God has spoken in his Son
There is no other way, for God has glorified his Son
There is no other life, for God has given us his Son
There is but one way,
Jesus is the way.

Genesis right to Revelation
God’s promise stands, There is one plan.
God has spoken, made the announcement
Do you know? How do you know?
How to tell the world, so they will also know, know, know?

BibleCentral Style
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Central Style
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Hey! Preach the good news!
(Bob-bob-bob-bob) BibleCentral Style
Hey! Preach the good news!
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Monday 10 September 2012

Read with me: Genesis 5

The entire book of Genesis can be summed up under one heading: The search for the Son. With each new generation, Genesis asks the question, “Could this be the one? Is this the son whom God promised?”

Each story begins with hope and expectation but sadly ends with disappointment and despair. We saw this in the the last chapter in the biblical account of Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve had high hopes at the birth of their firstborn, Cain. But Cain ended up murdering his brother, rejecting God’s word and defying God’s judgement. Sadder still was the perpetuation of his rage and anger down to his children and to his children’s children.

But Genesis is a book about new beginnings. And Chapter 5 signals the beginning of a new hope.

Notes on Genesis 5

[5:2] “This is the book of the generations...” signals the beginning of a new section of the book. Each time this occurs, Genesis will trace the family line of one man, or more specifically, one son of man. In this case it is the family line of Adam (The next one up ahead is Noah, in Genesis 6:9). Incidentally, Matthew’s gospel picks up on this formula when he opens his gospel with these words, “The book of the genealogy (or you could even say, Genesis) of Jesus Christ,” signalling a new beginning, and connecting back to the search for the Son that began way back in Genesis. It’s the Star Wars theme song indicating a new epic adventure is about to start!

[5:3] “Adam fathered a son in his own likeness, after this image, and named him Seth.” Intentionally mirroring God’s creation of man in verse 1 (notice how it just focusses on man, the creation of the heaven and the earth are left out), this highlights two important themes: Firstly, Adam as God’s Son (whereby Son = king, bearing God’s image, entrusted with his authority); and secondly, this same authority and blessing being passed down - not to all sons - but to one particular chosen Son. Verse 4 tells us, “(Adam) had other sons and daughters.” The focus is on this one son, Seth. This is the search for the Son.

[5:5] “Adam lived … 930 years, and he died.”

The search for the Son of Adam, the promised Son of God

As we progress down the family line of Seth, we begin to see a pattern emerging in the genealogy.
     Each generation has multiple children, but Genesis focuses on the birth of just one son, presumably the firstborn.
     Although each son goes on to live for an incredibly long time on the earth - hundreds of years - we generally see a decrease from generation to generation: Adam lived to the age of 930; Seth, 912; Enosh, 905; Kenan, 910; Mahalalel, 895. The pattern breaks from Jared onwards. In the next chapter, God drastically cuts the maximum lifespan (Genesis 6:3)
     Most importantly, each and every generation ends with death. “And he died.... and he died... and he died,” as if to remind us, that each son of Adam, still lives with the same sentence of death...
     With the exception of one individual, Enoch. Genesis 5:24, reads, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Significantly, Enoch is the seventh generation from Adam.
     We are meant to remember the other son, who was seven generations down from Adam, Lamech - the descendant of Cain. Genesis is giving us hope in the midst of death, decay and disappointment. Enoch walked with God, even if Lamech didn’t. There is a break in the chain of death with Enoch...
     But it is temporary. The cycle of death continues with Enoch’s son, Methuselah (the oldest recorded living individual here in Genesis 5, and perhaps the bible). “And he died... and he died.”
     The genealogy ends with Noah, whose name means “rest.” “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief/respite.” (Genesis 5:29) Perhaps this is the one. Noah’s father, Lamech, places all his hopes on his firstborn. Not just his personal expectations as a father, but the anxious anticipation of all humanity - all on this son. Notice how this is the same hope held onto by Adam, and I suggest to you, the same hope held onto by each and every son of Adam. It is hope in the promise that God gave the day he cursed the ground because of man’s sin: the promise that one day a son of man would reverse the curse of death and remove the suffering of all mankind.

     Who is that Son?

Read with me: Genesis 4

A few years ago, Rock Fellowship went through the whole book of Genesis, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. It took over a year to finish. Most of my thoughts recorded in these blog posts are recollections of the lessons we learned together as a fellowship group. The study we did on Genesis Chapter 4 was particularly memorable.

Cain and Abel - Genesis 4:1-16

[4:1] “I have gotten a man...” is Eve’s shout of joy - and perhaps pride - as she gives birth to Cain (which sounds like the Hebrew word for “gotten” or acquired). Could this firstborn son - this seed - be the serpent crusher?

[4:2] Abel is born - his name sounds like the word breath or nothingness or emptiness (similar to the refrain of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes - “Vanity of vanities!”) Throughout the whole account, Abel says nothing (till after his death, that is - 4:10). He is introduced as the very first shepherd in the bible - a “keeper of sheep,” while Cain, his big brother is a “worker of the ground,” just like his old dad, Adam.

[4:3-4] Both brothers offer up sacrifices to God - Cain’s from “the fruit of the ground,” while Abel’s “the firstborn of the flock and their fat portions,” but God only accepts Abel’s. Why? We are not told. Some suggest the element of sacrifice in Abel’s offering. Others point to the pride of Abel’s strength. Either way, the result is verse 5, “Cain was very angry.”

[4:6] God warns Cain. Notice, Cain hasn’t yet sin, but “sin is crouching at your door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Sin is pictured as a ferocious animal lurking behind the garage waiting to pounce upon an unsuspecting passer-by. It is interesting to note how God uses the exact same words to describe the woman’s broken relationship with her husband, back in Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be for our husband, he shall rule over you.” God is warning Cain to look out for sin, but also, to overpower the temptation to sin.

[4:7] “If you do well...” John applies this verse to Christians today in 1 John 3:12 (“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous.”). The context of 1 John is that of loving our brothers. That is the offering God was looking for. Not vegetables.

[4:8] “When they were in the field, Cain rose us... and killed him.” This isn’t a crime of passion. There is premeditation and deceit. Cain leads his brother into the fields and kills him in cold blood.

[4:9] “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain tries to cover-up his actions. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This might be a dig at his brother's profession as a keeper of sheep.

[4:10] “What have you done?” There is anguish in God’s voice. “He was your brother. How could you do this?” The only time Abel speaks, is now in his death. Hebrews references this verse when tells us that Jesus’ blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,” crying out not for vengeance, but forgiveness and atonement.

[4:12] Cain’s punishment is strikingly similar to his father, Adam’s. “... the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength. You shall be a fugitive...”

[4:13-14] There is no remorse; no repentance whatsoever in Cain’s response. Just self-pity. “My punishment is more than I can bear... whoever finds me will kill me.” God responds graciously with protection - a mark.

[4:16] Cain leaves, travelling east (cf. the people of Babel described as those who “travelled from the east”, Genesis 11:2). Progressively, each generation moves further away from God’s presence. “Cain... settled in the land of Nod,” which is an ironic statement. Nod is Hebrew for “wandering”. Cain is mocking and rejecting God’s judgement upon him (2:12 - “You shall be a wanderer,”) by settling down.

The descendants of Cain - Genesis 4:17-26

The following verses are a record of the family line of Cain, tracing seven generations beginning from Adam, down to Lamech.

     Enoch: Cain builds a city and names it after his son. A city is a gathering of people and its resources. Cain’s actions again reveal his contempt for God’s judgement which has scattered him from his family and community. He starts his own, stamping his authority and image on this new community by naming it after his firstborn.
     Methushael - these last three generations are quickly skipped over by Genesis, because the author really wants to get to the seventh son of Adam...

Lamech is a really interesting fellow. Here we see, seven generation on, how the family of Cain has advanced and evolved.

     Lamech marries two supermodels (Adah means adorned, Zillah means dark, as in a shade from the heat, refreshing). This is the first instance of polygamy, breaking the one-flesh pattern of marriage instituted by God in Genesis 2.
     He has three extremely accomplished sons.
     Jabal bear a striking resemblance to Abel (even their names sound the same). He is an even more successful sheep herder than his namesake. The tents imply that his flocks are so large, he has to live outdoors with them to manage his livestock. A real entrepreneur and businessman.
     Jubal is the musician - “the father of all who play the lyre and pipe.” There is an advancement in culture and the appreciation of the arts.
     Tubal-cain is the father of modern technology, “the forger of all instruments and iron.” The engineer of the family.

Lamech’s sons are accomplished, sophisticated, wealthy. The descendants of Cain are no longer wanderers, the live in cities. They are self-sufficient and evolved as individuals, as a society. But some things do not change.

[4:23] Lamech calls his wives over and essential recites poetry to them. Scholars tell us these are some of the most elegant and sophisticated words to be found in the book of Genesis. Lamech himself displays an advancement in eloquence and thought. And yet what does he sing about? Murder and revenge. “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for wounding me.”

[4:24] “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” Lamech displays the same anger, pride and resentment as his ancestor Cain, if not more. Time has only served to deepen his aggression towards his brothers and his rebellion against God’s rule.

[4:25] Seth is born. This time Eve recognises God’s hand in choosing the son of promise, “God has appointed for me another offspring.” Another seed. And the line continues down the line of Seth with the birth of Enosh, his son.

[4:26] “At that times people began to call on the name of the LORD.”

Read with me: Genesis 3

I preached on Genesis 3, three years ago and referred to the manuscript I used then in studying this chapter which you download here. The most memorable sermon I have ever heard preached on this passage was one delivered by Don Carson many years ago at Eden Baptist. You can download the MP3 by clicking here (not the exact same one, but similar in content).

Notes on Genesis 3

[3:1] “The serpent” Introduced as one of the creatures in the garden, a created being. He is described as “crafty” - clever, pragmatic, shrewd. On Sunday we met those who were “wise in their own eyes and shrewd in their own sight,” who “call evil good, and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20-21)

[3:1] “Did God actually say...” The serpent asks a seemingly innocent question, but subtly twists God’s words - “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden.” Look back to 2:16 - “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden...” Sneaky!

[3:2-3] “We may eat...but God said, ‘You shall not eat.” The woman replies with God’s word but adds her own spin, “...neither shall you touch it...”

[3:4] “You shall not surely die.” The very first thing the serpent questions and twists in God’s word is the reality of judgement. Again, Isaiah 5:19, “Let it come that we may know it.”

[3:5] “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God...” God’s motives and generosity is questioned. Note that what the serpent says is not entirely untrue. In verse 7, the eyes of the man and women are opened. In verse 22, God even says, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” Yet, the promise of the serpent is entirely false. They do not become like God. In disobeying God and listening to the serpent, they become even less than human.

[3:6] “Saw that the tree was good for food... a delight... desired to make one wise.” The word sin is never used in this episode (the first occurrence is only in 4:7), and yet here sin is defined for us: not merely as the rule-breaking, but as rule-making. The man and woman wanted to be like God - that was the temptation. They wanted to define what was good and evil for themselves.

[3:7] “The eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Previously in 2:25 the man and the woman were naked and not ashamed. Now they cover up their shame. Their eyes are opened and they can see “good and evil,” but what they now see is the evil of their actions and motives. “They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Cover-up is the theme of the ensuing verses.

[3:8] “God walking in the garden in the cool (Spirit) of the day...” is not a quaint description of an afternoon stroll, rather a holy God whose awesome unmistakable presence now fills the garden. “The man and wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD...”

[3:11] “Who told you that you that you were naked? Have you eaten...?” God confronts the man in judgement. He has nowhere to hide.

[3:12] “The woman whom you gave...” Adam’s response is to pass the buck. He denies any responsibility but shifts it all unto the woman... and even assigns blame unto God! The woman does the same in verse 13, “The serpent deceived me.” Notice that what has occured is a reversal of the created order. The woman listens to the serpent; the man listens to the woman, and now the man attempts to tell God to listen to his explanation. Such then, is the order of God’s judgement upon man and creation.

[3:14] “Cursed are you above all... beasts.”
[3:15] “I will put enmity between you and the woman.” There is war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Embedded in this word of judgement is the promise of the gospel - the protoevangelium (or first announcement of the good news). The serpent crusher will himself, be crushed.

[3:16] “To the women... I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing.” The word for “pain” in Hebrew sounds like the word for “tree.” Pain is a reminder of sin and points forward to judgement. God is saying to the woman, because of the “tree”, you will experience “trauma”. Because you “ate” from the tree I forbid you from eating, you will suffer “agony”. Notice that this greatest pain will occur at the point of her greatest joy - at childbirth.
[3:16] “Your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Here is conflict between the wife and her husband. She will want to influence and dominate. He will overrule.

[3:17] “And to Adam... Cursed is the ground because of you...” Adam’s work becomes toil. He has to work, for he has to eat, but no longer will it be pleasurable, but frustrating. The curse on the ground is symbolic of rebellion. The same way in which Adam rebelled against God’s rule, so now creation will rebel against Adam’s rule. “Thorns and thistles,” (verse 18) will grow, frustrating the work of the gardener.
[3:19] “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” Like the woman, every meal is a reminder of his mistake, every drop of sweat, now a reminder of his sin. Man does not die as much as he now lives with death every day.

Understanding death:
     Remember God’s word of warning in 2:17 - “In that day... you shall surely die.”
     Here we see that God’s judgement of death is not simply the termination of life
     The DNA of death is introduced into created order - it is seen in pain, it is seen in conflict, it is seen in frustration, it is seen in futility
     Death itself is a pointer in two directions:
Backward - to our sin and rebellion against God
Forward - to God’s final and certain judgement for our sin
     Man continues to live each day - with death.
     Yet, in the midst of death, we see hope for new life. God gives the promise of the son who will one day bring and end to death.

[3:20] “Eve...the mother of all living” Eve sounds like life-giver. There is hope and this hope will come from their offspring.

[3:21] “garments of skin and clothed them.” Their nakedness and shame is covered. Sin is real, so is shame. God makes provision for both.

[3:22] “knowing good and evil,” The man and women now know good and evil, but it is not as God knows this, through doing good, but as the serpent does, through doing evil. They are now like God, in that they have assumed autonomy.

The ironic thing is, God has made the man and women like himself, in his image (Genesis 1:27). Adam was given authority like God in naming the creatures. He was put to work, like God, in the garden. He was a son of God, sharing his rule and dominion over all of creation under God. Yet, in defying God’s word, the man and the woman were now less than God, and less than human.

[3:24] “The tree of life” The last mention (perhaps even, the only other mention) of the tree of life in the bible, occurs in Revelation 22:2 - “yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” A time will come when man will be invited to take and eat from this tree, symbolic of eternal life, but also that of healing and salvation.

Read with me: Genesis 2:4-2:25

Just a disclaimer for those following this series and coming for our first BibleCentral session on 6 October:

     The talk will only last 30 minutes
     Meaning: we will not be going through Genesis verse-by-verse
     These notes are quick thoughts and reflections as I read through the text and prepare
     I would love to hear your comments and thoughts. Email me at hello[at]

Notes on Genesis 2:4-2:25 (Click here to read the previous entry)

[2:4] “These are the generations...” Toledoh, here translated “generations”, is where we get the word “Genesis,” and functions as bookmarks throughout the book, introducing a new chapter.

[2:5] “There was no man to work the ground...” The ground (or land) needs a man to work it (or serve). Work = worship (Hebrew: Abad, meaning serve).

[2:8] “And he LORD God planted a garden in Eden...” After the epic creation account in Chapter 1, Genesis introduces God as a gardener who plants a garden. He is a working God and gardening is good, humble, lowly work. (This Sunday we looked at Isaiah 5:1-7, where God is again the gardener who digs, clears, and plants.) All work is good and godly work - especially hard work!

[2:9] “Every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” God’s goodness seen in his creation - beauty, abundance, blessing, provision.

[2:10] “A river flowed out of Eden...” God’s blessing overflows to the surrounding nations. The first two rivers, “Pishon” (To break out) and “Gihon” (To burst) illustrate how Eden cannot contain the blessing that God lavishes on it.

[2:15] “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden to work it and keep it... You may surely eat of every tree.” God provides for the man through his work. 2 Thess 3:10 - “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

[2:17] “But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat...” Similar to the phrasing in the Ten Commandments - “Thou shall not...” (Literally, “No eating...”) God gives Adam his word - his law. Note: it’s not an apple tree. It is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

[2:17] “You shall surely die...” Literally, you will die... DIE. In Hebrew, repetition is a form of emphasis - this will definitely happen. “The day you eat of it...” There will be no delay. Looking ahead, notice how after the fall, Adam does not die (he lives to 930 years, has kids - 5:5). The death that he dies, that God warns him of - this dying die - is more significant that physical death.

[2:18] “It is not good...” For the first time in Genesis, God looks upon something in his creation and sees something lacking. The man should not be alone. “I will make a helper fit for him.” God himself is described a helper in the bible (Ezer - 1 Sam 7:12), and does not denote a lower status. Rather it implies that the man cannot do the job by himself - he needs help. A helper is not a secretary.

[2:19] “God formed every beast... and brought them to the man to see what he would call them... that was its name.” Previously in Chapter 1, God names the Sky, Sea, Land, Sun, Moon - now the man names the animals, symbolising ownership and authority.

[2:20] “But for Adam...” The Hebrew word for “man” is Adam. The same word is used interchangeably throughout Genesis 2 to 5.

[2:20] “there not found a helper fit for him.” None of the animals and creatures were suitable as his companion and help.

[2:22] “The LORD God … made the woman and brought her to the man.” The creation of the woman becomes the setting for the first marriage. She is not created from the ground as Adam and the other creatures - meaning, God did not create a second man. The women is created from the man’s flesh and is part of the same humanity. Adam names the woman, again an act which symbolises headship and authority.

[2:24] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” God sees the man and the woman in marriage as one. Not two individuals but one relationship. Echad is the same word God uses to describe himself in the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) Oneness here, denotes completeness and wholeness. The relationship of marriage takes priority over others: the man shall leave his father and mother in order to cleave to his wife - Dabaq means stick.

[2:25] “Naked and not ashamed.” Openness with one another without shame. This was God’s intention before the fall, in his creation, in the relationship between the man and the woman. They were completely exposed before God and one another with nothing to hide. Things change drastically in the next chapter!