Usually my lessons are from the New Testament. Since one of the best ways to grow spiritually is to come into a better understanding of God's Word from the very beginning, I decided to go to the Old Testament. In fact, I'm going all the way back through Genesis. I've entitled this lesson, "In the Beginning: Part I.
If I asked each of you to finish the phrase "God is......... with five different words, I know I would hear lots of God's many attributes. And I'm sure many of you would have the answers "God is Love, God is Holy, and God is Perfect." Someone would say God is gracious and merciful. Yes, God is gracious and merciful because God is Love. Someone else would say God is good and righteous. Yes again, God is good and righteous because God is Holy. Another person may say God is pure and sinless. True, God is pure and sinless because God is Perfect. Most of God's attributes can be centered around His Perfection, His Holiness, and His Love. And Love is the very essence of God. And it was because of Love that God desired to reveal that which He was. So God expressed Himself. He expressed His Holy and Perfect nature, will, and purpose through creation.
Genesis 1:1 reads, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." When the Bible says created, that means God brought heaven and earth into existence from absolutely nothing. Since God is a Perfect God, it's hard to believe that He would create anything less than perfect; so in six creative days or (restoration days as some scholars believe), Heaven became the ideal home of God and His angelic host and Earth became paradise for Adam and Eve and the animal life. So, with angels in Heaven to administer to His will and glorify Him and Adam and Eve on earth for the purpose of Holy Communion with Him, God looked over His creative work and said, "It's all good."
The Bible doesn't tell us how long everything stayed good before pride and jealousy of God arose in Lucifer, one of God's highest angels, but it does tell us that Heaven wasn't the place for it. So, Lucifer and a third of the angels were cast out of Heaven and that's when Adam and Eve's ideal paradise became the entrance of sin. The fallen angel Lucifer became Satan, the devil. And the devil took possession of the body of a serpent and convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit which broke their Holy Communion with God. But since God is a loving God, He gave a promise that man would be brought back into Holy Communion through the work of the Messiah. But God also being a just God, had to pronounce judgment on Adam and Eve for their disobedience. So again, God cast created beings out of their perfect home, which sadly meant that Cain, Abel, Seth, and all of Adam and Eve's other children, and every person thereafter were born outside of Eden, outside of fellowship with God, and born with the sinful nature originated by Satan.
The Bible soon tells us how Cain's sinful nature led him to kill his own brother because God rejected his offering but accepted Abel's. So again, God had to pronounce judgment. He condemned Cain to be a fugitive, so Cain wandered around from place to place like a hobo and ended up in Nod. Now although we may not give much thought to this, but the Bible says, Cain took a wife, and the only wife he could have taken was one of his sisters. So Cain and his sister/wife had sons, who had sons and they all ignored God which led to corruption and more violence on the face of the earth. But in spite of the direction of Cain's descendants, there was still hope in the lineage of Seth, because through Seth came Enoch and Noah, the only two men the Bible says, "walked with God." The Bible doesn't tell us much more about Enoch, but enough is said when we learn that he was taken up to heaven without tasting death.
But much is said about Enoch's great grandson Noah. The Bible says, as the population of the world increased, Noah, himself, had three sons at five hundred years old. But during Noah's day, the spiritual sons of Seth's line began marrying the wicked daughters of Cain's line and moral corruption and violence increased so much until only Noah and his family were worshiping God. And when God saw all the wickedness, He grieved that He had created humans, so He pronounced worldwide judgment of the flood.
But the Scripture says, "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." So, Noah and his family would be spared to repopulate the earth. Now we all know how God gave Noah specific instructions on how to build an ark and what to bring into the ark, in preparation of forty days and forty nights of rain. So Noah was obedient to God and began building the ark and preaching to the people about the coming judgment. Now I know that if I had lived in Noah's day, and I was one of those people who didn't know God, I would have perished in the flood also. I'm sure it was hard for those people to believe a five-hundred year old man preaching forty days and forty nights of rain when it had never rained on earth before. So those people thought Noah was more than just a little senile, they thought he was flat-out crazy, so they laughed at him. And for over a hundred years they laughed while Noah built on the ark and preached coming judgment. And the people were still laughing when the door of the ark was shut, but seven days later the rains began to fall, then all that laughing stopped. But it was too late, every living creature on the face of the earth perished except the eight people and the pairs of animals that had come into the ark.
Earlier in the lesson, I said God promised that man would be brought back into Holy Communion through the work of Christ. So throughout the Old Testament, God reminds us of His promise through things that are called "types of Christ", things that foreshadow the Messiah. And the ark was one of the best "types of Christ", in all of Scripture. Anybody who was willing to come into the ark was saved from God's judgment, just as anybody who is willing to come unto Christ is saved from God's judgment.
It was a little over a year before Noah and his family were told to come out of the ark. And at that time, God blessed Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth and told them to replenish the earth, which they did. So Japheth brought forth descendants which included the Greeks and Romans; Ham's descendants included the Canaanites and the Philistines, and Shem's descendants included the Arabs and the Jews, which were also called Hebrews and Israelites. Although all three of Noah's sons became fathers of nations, the rest of the Old Testament is centered around Seth's descendants, which included Abram, who became the "father of the Hebrew nation."
In Genesis Chapter 11, we have the first mention of Abram and how he followed his father Terah to Haran. But elsewhere in the Scriptures, we learn that God had called Abram when he was in Ur and told him to leave, and the only instructions was, "to go to a land that He would show him." So after five wasted years in Haran, Abram finally stepped out on faith. At the age of seventy-five, he moved his wife Sarai and nephew Lot with all their servants and possessions and embarked on a life of pilgrimage. I'm sure it was hard for Abram, going by faith, but not knowing where he was going, but his faith was rewarded. God promised Abram four significant blessings; a great Jewish nation; descendants as numerous as the stars; everlasting possession of the land of Canaan; and a spiritual seed through whom all men would be blessed, and as we all know, that spiritual seed pointed to the Messiah.
So Abram and his caravan traveled until they came to Canaan where Abram's faith was soon tested. The Scripture tells us, "we all fall short of the glory of God." Although I didn't mention it earlier, but after God had shown grace to Noah, Noah fail short. Noah got drunk and passed out naked in his tent, and when his younger son looked upon his father with disrespect, Noah cursed a portion of the human race. If God had to use a perfect man to help carry out His will, then His will would never be done. So Abram, like everyone before him and everyone after him, was subject to failures. And one of Abram's failures came when a famine struck in Canaan. Instead of Abram trusting God to supply his needs, he sought relief in Egypt. And it was there in Egypt that we saw Abram's character become that of a lying, deceitful, coward.
The Egyptians, who were also descendants of Noah's son Ham, had a custom that no foreigner would come live in their land without making a treaty; and part of the treaty was to give a daughter or sister to the Pharoah's harem. Although Abram's wife Sarai was sixty-five years old, she was still a pretty woman, and Abram knew that the Pharoah would want Sarai as one of his women. So to save his own hide and find favor with the Pharoah, Abram asked Sarai to lie and say she was his sister. Well actually, Sarai was Abram's sister because they had the same father, but the deception came in not admitting that she was also his wife. So things happened just like Abram expected. He prospered in Egypt, but it was at the expense of Sarai and the Pharoah. Sarai had to join the Pharoah's harem, and God brought severe plagues on the Pharoah for having Sarai in his harem. But the Pharoah acted more righteously than Abram, because when he discovered the deception, he rebuked Abram and sent them all back to Canaan.
When Abram and his family returned to Canaan, Abram realized that he and Lot had too much cattle and not enough pasture for both of their herds. So Lot parted ways with his uncle and pitched his tent near Sodom, and he eventually made sin-city his home. But unfortunately for Lot, the King of Sodom and other kings in the surrounding areas had rebelled against the King of Persia, but the rebels were defeated and the King of Persia and his allies took all the peoples' possessions and took everybody captive, including Lot. When the news of Lot's capture spread, the same man who had been a coward in Egypt became a courageous leader in Canaan. Abram assembled an army and pursued the captors until they rescued Lot and retrieved everything that was taken in the rebellion. When Abram returned to Canaan he received honor and blessings from King Melchizedek and Abram in turn, gave honor and praise to God by giving a tenth of all the possessions to the King and returning the rest to the people.
Shortly after the events of the rebellion, Abram began experiencing fear that if the King of Persia retaliated, he could be killed without having an heir. But the word of God came to Abram in a vision and reassured him that he would have a son and descendants as numerous as the stars. And at that time God made a covenant with Abram to seal all the promises He had made to him earlier.
As we all know, God's ways are not our ways and God's timing is not our timing; what seems like a long time to man, or woman in this case, is no time to God. After ten years with no promised heir, Abram's wife Sarai became impatient and gave her handmaid Hagar to Abram to have a son. So at the age of eighty-six, Abram became the father of his first-born son, Ishmael. And since Ishmael's birth was Sarai's plan and not God's, there was friction between Sarai and Hagar right from the very beginning, and it got so bad that Hagar eventually ran away. But an angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar and told her to return and submit to Sarai, and he gave a promise that her son Ishmael would become head of a great nation. And true to the promise, Ishmael became the forefather of the Arab race.
Then thirteen years later, when Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him and renewed His covenant and instituted circumcision as a sign of the covenant. And at that time, God changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah. God also declared that the following year Sarah would bare a son at ninety years old and his name should be called Isaac. And since this was God's choice of Abraham's promised heir, the covenant would pass from Abraham to Isaac to Isaac's seed and on, until it was fulfilled.
Earlier we learned how Abram had rescued his nephew Lot and all the people of Sodom from the King of Persia. But instead of the people being grateful and changing their ways, they returned home and got worse. So the Lord and two angels visited Abraham, and the Lord revealed to Abraham that He would destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The first time Abraham had saved Lot by the sword; but this time he would save him through intercessory prayer. So as the two angels continued on toward Sodom, Abraham began pleading with the Lord on behalf of Lot. He knew that the Lord wouldn't destroy the righteous with the wicked, so he suggested that the Lord spare the city if fifty righteous people were found. But when Abraham got to thinking about how wicked Sodom really was, he began a countdown of the number of righteous people until he got to ten. But the Lord agreed He would spare the city for ten righteous people.
So when the two angels finally arrived in Sodom, Lot invited them to his house to spend the night. But when the news spread that Lot had two young men staying at his house, all the men of Sodom surrounded Lot's house and demanded that the angels come out so they could have sex with them. The people were so wicked in Sodom that homosexuality was not a sin. I don't know if it was a sin to Lot, or if he was just trying to protect his guests, but Lot came out to try to reason with the mob, and he even offered his two virgin daughters to the men. But the men refused and threatened to treat Lot worse than the two strangers. But before the men could push pass Lot, the two angels pulled Lot in, shut the door, and miraculously struck all the men with a temporary, confusing blindness. Then early the next morning the angels urged Lot to get his family out of the city before it was destroyed. So Lot went to his future sons-in-law but were unable to convince them, so the angels grabbed Lot, his wife, and daughters and hurried them out of the city. But Lot's wife's heart was still in Sodom so she kept trailing farther and farther behind. And when Lot and his daughters reached the city of safety, his wife was still closer to Sodom so she was covered in burning sulfur and nothing was left but a pillar of salt.
Evidently there weren't ten righteous people in the city of Sodom. And Lot's daughters soon proved that there was nothing righteous about them. They were so concerned about preserving the family line that their wickedness knew no bounds. Those daughters shamefully and deceitfully got their father sloppy drunk, had sex with him, and got pregnant. And they both brought forth a son who became the fathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites. Although the daughters' acts were dispicable, the Lord showed concern for the descendants of Lot, but eventually the Moabites and the Ammonites became enemies of God's chosen people.
I'll close this lesson with the terrible end of Lot. But we must remember, 2 Peter 2:7, 8 says, "Lot was a righteous man." But because of his worldliness he lost his testimony. So Lot represents all men whose backsliding ways end in a loss of fellowship with God. Although Lot passes into oblivion, we'll learn in Part II how his uncle Abraham will ever be remembered.
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