Creation Order

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The opening account of the creation in Genesis 1 is surprisingly non informative when it comes to the creation of the heavens.  On the fourth day an aspect of the first heaven is mentioned – sun, moon and stars – but there is no mention at all of the second and third heavens (2 Cor. 12:2).  The emphasis in Genesis 1 is almost entirely on the earth.

In v. 3 Light is spoken into being and that is that as far as the first day is concerned.  The chaotic and dark substance that everything earthly will be created from is water.  Water is not spoken into existence but just seems to be there when God created the heavens and the earth.  Time starts with the first day.

blue_wave_of_water

Water is such an important substance that Day 2 is taken up with separating it into two and thereby creating the air and sky and nothing else.

On Day 3 the waters are gathered together into one place and by that action the dry land appears.  It is as if the land was always there but just needed to have the waters moved out of the way for it to be seen.  Another way of looking at is to see the original ball of water as having suspended in it all the dust needed to produce the earth (and perhaps also the other planets).  Once a lot of the water is put into the pre-flood water canopy and the clouds on Day 2, the ball of water and soil is less diluted.  When the waters are gathered into oceans and seas on Day 3 the muddy material is sufficiently coalesced to form dry ground and to bring forth the vegetation that appears to have been scattered through it in the form of seeds which now sprout.  When it comes to understanding this in the light of our knowledge about the structure of the earth, I think it is helpful to think in very large terms.  There is no sun at the centre of this ball of water vapour and the other planets are not mentioned so they could all have spun of this earthly creation process.  In Second Peter chapter 3, he says: “God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water.”

On Day 4 God creates the sun, moon and stars which establish times and seasons and festivals.  Light was there before the sun which seems strange but perhaps if the sun, moon and stars were extinguished we might be surprised at how much light was still present (cosmic background radiation perhaps?).  Also the planets could have been formed on this day since they were always understood to be wandering stars.

On Day 5 God creates the sea creatures of all sorts and sizes and the birds.  Amazing imagination.

On Day 6 God creates all the land animals and man.  This seems to have been a busy day since, unless Eve was created after Day 7 which seems unlikely, Adam gave names to the animals that day also.

And on Day 7 God, satisfied with His work, rested.

Resting in light and water is nearly everyone’s idea of a holiday.

Exodus 32 – The Golden Calf

Everything changes for the people of Israel after Exodus 32.  God’s anger is clear and more, and more detailed, laws are added in after this incident.  Before that we have the Ten Commandments, some instructions about altars and goading oxen and how to treat Hebrew love slaves.  After this incident we have 600+ others.

GoldCalf

One refrain that occurs throughout the incident is that “the people cast off restraint”.  The advantage of giving up an all knowing, all seeing God for a blind and inanimate idol is that there is no sense that it is watching you.  So you can do what you want.  Unfortunately for a lot of weak and vulnerable members in the Israeli society at the time what a lot of bullies and too many stronger members wanted was to exploit them – egged on by the demons behind the idol of course.  If that had been left to take its course then the all too repetitive and tragic pattern of oppression, corruption and lawlessness played out in too many societies before and since would have been their lot too.  God, and Moses, weren’t about to let that happen.

I’m thankful that I have a God that watches over me.  I’m also thankful that His character is relentlessly unchanging.  Faith in Him and these facts about Him – I know what He is like and what He wants – keeps me pure.

Priorities

Pierce my earI was speaking recently with a good friend about the law and he said to put the word “instruction” where you see the word “law” and that gives a better sense of the meaning.

So what is the next instruction that God puts in Exodus after the Ten Commandments?  Actually it is about altars.  But what is the one after that (in Exodus 21)?

“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him.

“If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God.[a] Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.”

I don’t want to go free, God has given me everything.  Pierce my ear to the door of your house, O Lord!

Doing away with law

law-books1So here’s the thing:  any law gives sin power and fallen human nature being what it is as soon as we see a law we long to break it.  To make things worse, there is great pleasure in breaking laws.

But I’m not living on that planet.  Well I am but my spirit isn’t.  I’m somewhere else.  I died to the law when I was born again to a new life in the Kingdom of Light, the one where the great Lover is king.

I recently asked a friend to quote the 10 commandments.  She began by saying: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength.  And love your neighbour as yourself.”  Just like a true Christian should.  It’s all about love.  We have died to the law (all laws including the ones in the bible) and now we live in a love relationship with Yeshua (Romans 7).  Of course, being in love, all our thoughts are wrapped up in Him and what we can do to please Him.

There is a problem – we are in a long distance relationship.  We are in love, so He lives by His Spirit in our hearts, we know what He wants, we can hear His voice in our hearts and follow in His ways.  But He is not here bodily, He is in heaven.  Thankfully He sent us a lot of good love letters over the ages which tell us all sorts of His/stories about how He deals with people and what pleases Him and what doesn’t.  Included among them are a lot of commandments, laws and prescriptions for life.  We don’t have to do them of course – we are not under law – but if we do them we may find that that pleases Him depending on the law and the heart with which we carry it out.  Laws are also a good way of checking if we are still in first love.  If they are a burden to carry out then it is probable that we are not in first love.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Sacrifice doesn’t feel like sacrifice when it is done in love.

So recently I’ve been challenged to think about doing those laws that please Him like keeping the Sabbath holy.  For me the Spirit in me is indicating that that means sitting around all day reading the bible, which is nice.  He also has shown me that (again for me- we are not under any law in these matters) that it starts at 6pm on a Friday evening and ends at 6pm on a Saturday.  The great thing is that you can take it or leave it, I on the other hand, have so enjoyed the extra fellowship and time with my first Love that I can’t wait to do it again.  Well I can but you know what I mean.

The Spirit and the Bride

It is no coincidence that in Abraham’s life Genesis 24 follows Genesis 22.  Ok, I know that sounds obvious but what I mean is in Genesis 22 we have that – how can I say it- astounding act of obedience by Abraham to God’s command to sacrifice his son.  I deal with this in another blog but suffice it to say here that it, of course, is a foreshadow of God the Father going though the death of His own Son on the cross a couple of thousand years later.

Genesis 24 foreshadows God the Father (Abraham) sending the Holy Spirit (his faithful and intimate servant) to get a bride, the Church, (Rebecca) for His Son Jesus (Isaac).

Some points that stand out to me from this story:

  • All the servant’s master’s goods were in his hand, he just took 10 camels and off he went.10 camels
  • The servant didn’t even have to tell Rebecca what to do, she knew and did it.
  • The servant did nothing to help Rebecca water 10 thirsty camels.  I wonder how many times she had to run back and forth with water containers while he sat and watched?
  • The wait was worth it for Rebecca though.  She got some pretty cool gifts after she had passed his test.
  • Rebecca had no problem leaving her father’s house and going with this stranger to a land far away that she knew nothing much about.  Talk about trust!

It’s a lovely story with much to teach us about a right response to the Holy Spirit.  Have a read, you are sure to spot other things.

No Law!

Paul has said this a few times now:  When there is no law there is no sin.

This morning I woke and spent time with God.  Wonderful time with God.  This is always a good thing.

This morning I realised that any law anyone might have written or spoken against what I am is null and void.  I’m accepted in all my complexities and peculiarities.

I am consoled though that I am not alone in this.  We all need levels of acceptance and freedom from sin that only the cross can bring.  I’ve died with Christ.  The law doesn’t apply to me any more.  Go and take a run and jump accuser.

Jesus’ life better than Adam’s sin

In Romans 5 Paul states something a bit obvious – Jesus life is more powerful than Adam’s sin in its effects.

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.  Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did.

Bad news, it only took one man’s sin for death to enter the world and for everyone to die.  We see that around us all the time.  The inevitability of death stares every man in the face no matter how good they are.

17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

I find it difficult to understand how the free gift of new life for everyone can be greater than Adam’s sin if, in fact, it doesn’t apply to everyone.  What I mean is, death applies to everyone so therefore life must also apply to everyone for it to be greater.  That seems obvious enough.

So I would argue from this and from Scriptures concerning the Book of Life, that the default position of every man is that they are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because of Jesus’ death on the Cross.  You have to have your name erased from the Book of Life to lose that life.  Only Overcomers are guaranteed that that won’t happen to them (see Exodus 32:32 and Rev. 3:5).

However if you want to appropriate and see the effects of that life in this world then you need to receive it now.  Actually, if you are reading this don’t take the risk and presume you are there.  Make sure you are experiencing the reality of the love of Christ in your life now.  The only people who can really be assured they are in the Book of Life now are those who can hear God the Father’s whisper in their heart to which they respond: “Abba, Father”.  No amount of thinking it can give that assurance.

But let God be gracious in your heart, He is not willing that any should perish.  Who knows, perhaps the exclusive evangelical doctrine which says that every man must believe biblical-truththe way we do to be saved is not quite right after all?

Let us not think that everyone around us is going to hell just because they don’t go to our church.  God knows their hearts, very often we don’t.

Faith

“If we emphasize faith does that mean we can forget about the law?”  Paul asks at the end of Romans 3.  And then he answers himself:  “Of course not!  In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”

It seems to me that the first 4 chapters of Romans are primarily about sin, law and faith and the relationship between all three.  And up to now we have learned that we all sin, that the law doesn’t help but instead just makes the sin more obvious and that faith is somehow the answer to it all.  Paul has also introduced the concept of grace/ undeserved favour. In chapter 4 Paul tries to explain faith using Abraham as an example.

First of all it is as well to establish that Abraham was a sinner.  He mistrusted God on at least two occasions we know of and put Sarah in a compromised position, he had a child by his wife’s servant – as well as several other liaisons.  He also committed murder on several occasions – or at least he was involved in war – and would have killed his own son if God hadn’t stopped him.  By the way, it looks like Sarah had had enough after that incident since we don’t see her with him again until she is dead.  You wouldn’t blame her for not wanting to stay with a man who said God told him to kill their son.

But the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”  Abraham, just like us, needed a saviour – a God who forgives sinners.  And it was the trusting relationship with God that enabled God to pass on that forgiveness to him.  There was no way he could be with God, believing God, and not be forgiven since he couldn’t stand before God’s holiness except in a place of forgiveness.

“Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin!”  as David says.  Another man who needed a saviour.

The death of Jesus looks back as well as forward in its effects.

None of us

“No one is righteous – not even one.

No one is truly wise;

No one is seeking God.

All have turned away; all have become useless.

No one does good, not a single one.”

For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands.  The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And this is true for everyone who believes no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood.”

The above is extracted from Romans 3 (NLT in case you didn’t recognize it).  It seems Paul wrote the first two chapters of Romans to make sure that he set the standard of God’s requirements out of reach for both the irreligious and the religious alike.  As he says later on: “For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.” (Romans 11:32 NLT).  Which must surely be one of the most mind boggling statements in the Bible.  No wonder Paul goes on to say: “How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!”

But understanding it all is not where it is at.  Believing and trusting in Him is.

Having said that Paul gives understanding its best shot in Romans.  I personally like that.

Hypocrisy

As I’ve mentioned in at least two of my other blogs (if not more) it is clear that Jesus reserves His harshest words for religious hypocrites.  Paul does something similar in Romans 2.  To make it perhaps more relevant I’ve changed a few of the words while attempting to retain the spirit of them.

But first of all have a good read of the whole chapter – there is nothing untrue about any of it.  None of it is abrogated by Jesus’ death on the cross even in the context of what later chapters say.  The key word is “continue”.  If you continue in sin and refuse to repent of it you will suffer punishment no matter what your experience has been or what you think you have believed in the past.

Starting in v. 17:

“You who call yourselves Born-Again Christians are relying on the Bible and you boast about your special relationship with Him.  You know what He wants; you know what is right because you have been taught by your pastors.  You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness.  You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God.  For you are certain that the Bible contains all the knowledge and truth that is required.

“Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself?  You tell others not to steal, but do you steal from the Government in tax evasion or your employer or the Church by not contributing to it’s programs or God by not bringing Him your tithes?  You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery every day with your eyes?  You condemn idolatry, but do you watch TV programs and DVDs glorifying pop bands and models and take selfies all the time?  You are so proud of knowing the law but you dishonour God by breaking it.  No wonder the man in the street blasphemes the name of God because of you.

“Being baptized by full immersion in water or in the Spirit has value only if you obey God.  But if you don’t obey God you are no better off than anyone else.  And if the man in the street obeys God’s law, won’t God declare them to be his own people? In fact the average joe who keeps God’s law will condemn you born again believers who have been baptized in the Spirit and possess a bible but don’t obey Him.

“For you are not a true disciple just because you were born of Christian parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of full immersion baptism.  No a true Christian is one whose heart is right with God.  And true baptism is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit.  And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

And if you think I’ve gone too far just read on further into the New Testament – 1 Corinthians 13, Hebrews 6 & 10, 2 Peter, Jude.  There is no shortage of places where mere religion, no matter how holy sounding, is condemned as useless before God.

But if your heart condemns you, remember that God is greater than your heart and He knows all things.