January 4, 2016

Covenant and Correction

Genesis 9 – 11

The major themes in Genesis are: creation, sin, judgment and promise. These themes extend throughout the entire biblical narrative. They are historically depicted in the Old Testament to help us see the big picture of what God is doing. Then His will is brought to focus in the NT.  

I have trouble with both seeing the big picture and focusing on one thing at a time. Traditionally, devotionals are supposed to concentrate on one main point, but God speaks to me about many things. Today, I must summarize these three chapters before I even know which main thought He is trying to bring to my attention!

In this section, there is instruction about food and the command to multiply and fill the earth. God also makes society responsible for individual behavior by enforce His prohibition against murder. He values people because we are made in His image. Also in these chapters are genealogies describing the descendants of Noah and his sons, and more references to how sin was affecting each generation as they rebelled against God.

Besides this, God makes a promise; He will never again destroy the world with water and gives the rainbow as a reminder of His faithfulness. This promise is called a covenant. In business a covenant was a contract. In personal relationships it was a commitment. Most are two-party agreements, but God’s covenant to Noah was pure promise, without any “ifs.” The rainbow reminds us of His character and the nature of our relationship with Him. God reaches out to His people with promises, not demands. He makes commitments that do not depend on our performance. While we fail God, God will never fail us.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, God makes a new covenant that is based on the same one-sided promise. In Christ, we are promised eternal life by grace through faith. Like the Genesis promise, the New Covenant is not about what we do, but about what God has done. Each time I see a rainbow, I am reminded that the God who promised to never again destroy all life with a flood is the God of promise, the God of grace. The commitments that He makes to us in Christ are promises that will never fail.

A second section that impresses me is the story of the tower made at Babel in Genesis 11:1-9: “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’”

Remember, God told them to multiply and fill the earth, but they didn’t want that. Some have thought that “with its top in the heavens” implies some sort of idolatrous worship, yet the text suggests a different sin. The tower symbolized their idea of solidarity, even racial unity. They didn’t want to be “dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” This command may seem like a little thing, but all His God’s are important.

God redirected them in an amusing way. He “confused their language.” My devotional reading says, Can you imagine the next morning, one of the workers saying, “Hand me another brick, will you?" And his friend hearing, “Xpul Kodlyeme kakkadoke, seppulvista?"

Each person probably searched for other speakers that understood them. They formed groups with different languages and each group drifted away, settling in new territories. In gentleness, “the Lord scattered them over all the earth.”

I’ve watched God redirect my life many times. Some didn’t seem gentle at the time nor were they humorous. However, I can look back and see His grace. His redirection has always been to teach me more about Him, or show me areas of sin that also needed redirection. How good that He does not use a 2 x 4 when I stray, but is able to redirect me without harming me. Actually, some of that redirection has felt more like a hug than a correction!

A quote from Irenaeus is another of today’s blessings from the Lord: “God did not make the first human because He needed company, but because He wanted someone to whom He could show His generosity.  God did not tell (me) to follow Him because He needed (my) help, but because He knew that loving Him would make (me) whole.”

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