It’s a new year, and I’m starting to read through a new Bible. (This one is the “God’s Word” translation. I enjoy reading different versions because it lends freshness. It will be given to one of my grandchildren later with all my notes and markings.)
Each time I re-read this precious Book, I ask the Author to teach me something I hadn’t seen before, or that I had forgotten. And He does! Here’s what I saw this morning in the first chapters of Genesis:
Did you realize that of the very first three people who lived on the earth, each of them were given special instructions by God about something they should not do, each chose to do it anyway, each was visited by God for reprimand and punishment (banishment)—but was not killed.
I think this chart helps me see it better:
What an amazing God we have—full of love, wisdom, justice and mercy!
Hintawa man to ngadan nu?
Como se llama usted?
Ano ang pangalan mo?
What is your name?
So many languages and so many ways of saying things! Languages both unify and divide people, as we see from Genesis to the end of history described in the book of Revelation.
1. At the tower of Babel, the single language that had unified the whole earth was suddenly split into many, giving people no alternative but to obey God’s command to inhabit the entire globe.
2. Thousands of years later in Jerusalem, Jews who had adopted the languages of many other countries were startled to hear God’s message, each in their own language.
3. Since Jesus returned to heaven, His disciples have carried his message to the far corners of the globe, to thousands of language communities. However, there are still 1919 languages that do not have any part of that message. People are still waiting to hear!
4. John the apostle saw the final outcome of this linguistic diversity. Around the throne of God in heaven, speakers of every language will be joyfully united again with one common purpose:
…a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10)
I suspect that we’ll all understand one another’s languages as we blend them in that great cry of victory and praise to our Maker and Redeemer.
From favorite-son status
to a pit, victim of treachery
to a top managerial position
to a dungeon on a trumped-up charge
to the position of Prime Minister!
Joseph’s life was a roller-coaster. While others might emerge from these experiences bitter and angry, the effect on Joseph’s character was quite different. He went from being a cocky younger brother to being a man of integrity, wisdom, and a tender heart that could truly forgive and love those who had hurt him so badly.
Why? The Lord was with Joseph in his slavery (Gen. 39:2-6),
in the dungeon (39:21-23),
and then before the king who promoted this prisoner to prime minister in one fell swoop! (41:38-40) And Joseph acknowledged that his hardships were part of God’s bigger plan to do greater things. (45:5 & 50:20)
So why do I complain? Joseph’s God is my God too.
I think God has a great sense of humor and has included lots more of it in the Bible than we ever see. After reading Psalm 2 this morning, where God is laughing at those puny kings and leaders who shake their fist at him, I turned to Genesis 11.
Human leaders get together saying, “Come, let’s build a tower up to heaven and make a great name for ourselves—or else we might be scattered over the earth” (which is what God had commanded Noah’s descendants to do in Genesis 9:1).
God says, “Come, let’s go down and see what those people are doing and confuse their language.”
Man’s rebellions ambitions and God’s sovereign plans—which wins out? God’s, of course! I’m glad I’m on his side.
I’ve just begun to read through another new Bible. This one will eventually be given (with my notes) to my grandson Josiah. As I began in Genesis, this is the facet that caught my attention:
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were other/outward focused—to God, to the work God had given them to do, and to each other. There was harmony, communication, and cooperation—even with the earth, plants and animals.
When Satan came to tempt Eve, it was “all about you” (or, from Eve’s perspective, “All about me!”):
The benefits touted by the tempter:
–“You will not die.”
–“Your eyes will be opened.”
–“You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
In today’s words, “You deserve it!”
Just one more thought about his promise, “You will be like God…” Doesn’t it sound familiar? Isn’t that ambition what got Satan kicked out of heaven in the first place? (Isaiah 14:13-15)
It is true that we were made “in God’s likeness” in terms of moral, intellectual and relational capacities. And we are urged to be like Jesus in the perfection of his character. But we must not presume to think that we could ever approximate His wisdom, knowledge, sovereignty, and Wholly/Holy Other-ness! That was the problem of Satan which he passed on to the human race, and we are suffering the consequences even today.
(More next time about Eve’s response and the results of her action.)