Friday, March 25, 2022

The Sons Also Rise: The Prodigal Son and His Brother, Part I

 Here we go.  Let's look at our first parable.  

A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.'

He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate.

Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’

He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ (Luke 15:11-32 WEB)

Jesus loved to tell stories that held within their seemingly simple message a profound set of truths. He told a lot of stories and he was a masterful storyteller. I am sure the crowds gathered around eagerly when they heard Jesus say, “Now, there was a man with two sons…”

Jesus is traveling, and large crowds are following Him, including the “tax collectors and ‘sinners’”—those people who were considered evil by the respectable sorts.

Tax collectors handled the unclean coins of the Romans, and were, in effect, in league with the Roman government, who was bitterly oppressive towards the Jewish people. These tax collectors not only collected money to finance such a government, but they were not above pocketing some money for themselves.

The NIV Study Bible puts it well: “Notoriously evil people as well as those who refused to follow the Mosaic law as interpreted by the teachers of the law. The term was commonly used of tax collectors, adulterers, robbers and the like.”  Not a label anyone would want to have pinned on them.

Can't you just hear the "good folks" following Jesus in the crowd, saying in their heads,   

Those people deserve our scorn.  Who would dare collect money for a pagan government that oppresses you, your family and your nation? Why should we, the good people of God, allow those people who are unfaithful, have sex for money, steal and engage in God-knows-what to join us as we follow Jesus?  I am just perplexed that our Rabbi would allow such people to follow Him.  

It’s normal to have revulsion for what these people do. Jesus, however, wants to get through the outer sinful behavior and get to the inner person. He removes a person from a culturally-imposed category. He then stands that person in front of us as a fellow human being. He is reestablishing that person’s humanity that we all share, good or bad behavior aside.  As soon as we categorize a person--Oh, he’s a sinner, a tax collector, a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser, etc.--we disconnect from that person. 

 We are thinking, We’re not as outrageously sinful as that! Then we have no guilt casting that person aside.

So, do we forget what this person is doing/has done? No, Jesus always confronts sin and never minimizes it, but He never strips a person of his or her humanity either. 

People are jostling for position to hear Jesus teach. Some are casting scornful looks at the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Once in position, the good folks are smiling up at Jesus, with a Look, Lord, here I am. Yeah, I occasionally sin, but thank God I am not like that woman over there! I am ready to listen…

Add to the mix the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, hanging back at a distance, for fear of standing amongst the unclean masses. They are muttering to themselves (but loud enough for people to hear) how they just cannot understand how a teacher can associate with those people:

Well, Rabbi Jesus, we deal with them too, but look with whom you are willing to eat! Prostitutes! Sinners! Tax Collectors! And you call yourself a rabbi, acting as one who follows Moses’ law and who claims to walk uprightly with God. Eating with someone, may we remind you, isn’t just lifting a morsel of bread at a table with someone—it is a sign of friendship. You are befriending those whom God has judged to be beyond hope, in our humble opinion, of course. If you really want to be a rabbi, one whom we could respect, you would teach these people—at a safe distance, of course--and then leave to dine with us. We are the ones that God really favors. We are the good and decent sorts, not those disgusting people you seem so fond of as you travel from town to town.

Then Luke says, “Then Jesus told them this parable…” He waited until the mumbling Pharisees quieted down. He waited for all of the jostling to cease. Jesus could see into all of the people's hearts and telling a parable would cut through pious exteriors as well as shame-filled ones. Jesus went directly to the heart of the matter. 

 Jesus is asking, in effect: What do we do with those whose behavior disgusts us? What kind of attitude must we have when interacting with them? As Jesus’ story unfolds, did the "sinners," (whose faces were anxiously watching the crowd) along with those who wouldn’t even look up, (let alone look at Jesus),  soften as they heard His words? He starts to tell the story, and a hush descends.

“A certain man has two sons…” Everyone can relate to having a sibling, especially with large families being the cultural norm in this time. The younger son decides it’s time to strike off on his own—that’s not a problem. But how is he to finance his launch? Now, there’s the problem.  The NIV Study Bible notes that in Jewish culture, the older son possessed double the portion of the father’s inheritance based on Deuteronomy 21:17.

It is interesting that earlier, in Luke 12:13, an angry young man comes up to Jesus, and wants Him to settle a family dispute: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” The NIV notes that rabbis regularly settled such disputes, but Jesus’ response to the young man's request is when was He “appointed judge or an arbiter between you?” Then Jesus warns the young man, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Did this young man’s face flash into Jesus’ mind as He started telling the story?

Was greed likewise in the heart of the young man in the parable?

The NIV Study Bible says this is a “highly unusual” request to make, for the father may divide the inheritance, but that the father “retains the income from it until his death.” So, by lessening the total of the inheritance by giving some of it to the younger son, will the income that the father will live on be less? Will the older son’s inheritance provide the sole income for the father?

But, of course, the younger son wasn’t thinking of his father’s welfare—he was thinking of himself.

That’s how we work, right? 

What’s good for me: That is a good question! I am tired of worrying about others, and now I need to look after myself. Being good. Get real. Being a good son ain’t it’s all cracked up to be. I want to be my own person, and look to what I can do for ME.

The younger son didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to leave. He had left in his mind a long time ago. Did he watch his older brother working day after day on behalf of the father, and say, That will not be me. Being good all the time? No way. Look where it’s getting my brother—fast track to No-Wheres-Ville.

We will find out later that the older brother was battling with his own negative attitude not only about his life but also about his younger brother.

So, the younger son packs up and gets “together all he had.” Given that his resources are going to be limited (he’s young, he hasn’t made his way in the world yet), “all he had” wasn’t much.

But is Jesus looking deeper than what was in the younger son’s backpack? Was “all he had” just that… himself? He had his self-confidence, his pride and his arrogance to carry him through. Did he look at himself and say, Hey, I am good enough to make it on my own. No slaving in a field and dealing with Dad. I am my own man, and whatever life throws at me, I can handle it. I am young, strong, and I’ve got my wits about me.

How often do we say to God: Enough. I can handle this. You’ve asked too much of me, I am tired of being good all the time—it’s not getting me anywhere, and I need to try this out based on what I think. I’ve got my wits about me, God!

So, our younger son leaves “for a distant country.” No living next door to Dad and brother.

Hey! I need to reinvent myself—I am tired of being the son of So and So, and the younger brother of So and So.  I need to be ME and I must do it away from the prying eyes of my family.  I am outta here and look out world!  Here I come! 

So, within some period of time, after his first foot fall in Anywhere-But-Here-Ville, he starts to spend his inheritance.  He didn’t go looking for a job right away—oh no, he’s got money.  A few inns here and there, some new friends to spend time with and soon he’s the center of the party.  You always have plenty of friends if you are paying.  All that money will last a long time, right? 

And all those pretty women, who light up when he walks into a room…All those guys, who pat him on the back, clear a place at the table, and signal him to sit down.  He then orders the endless rounds of drinks.  

No worries…I’ve got people around me who really care—just look at them.  Everyone in this town knows my name.  I am no longer the younger brother…I am ME.  I’ve got friends to prove blisters on my hands from the plow, or dirt in my teeth.  I have arrived.

The money does run out…it always does. He spent “everything.”

The money does run out…it always does. He spent “everything.” This necessarily would not have been a problem, if he had been seeking gainful employment, or had found a job already. But that would have meant looking ahead, and our younger brother is all about NOW: Thinking about the future? Nah--that's for kill-joys like my father and older brother.

Now, outside forces invade his world—forces he has no control over. Famine hits the land. When people are starving, normal activities screech to a halt. People focus on themselves, understandably so, for worrying about the next meal is overwhelming. Where are all of his friends now? It’s every man for himself, and our younger son goes looking for SOMETHING. His resources could have been a hedge against such calamity, but it hits him hard now that he has nothing.

He goes to a “citizen of that country” and asks for a job—any job. (Desperation deflates arrogance and self-sufficiency rather quickly!) This man is probably not a fellow Jew—this man is raising pigs, a taboo animal and a forbidden food source for the Jews. The younger son shows up at this man's door, with his Jewish dress and demeanor and probably looks as much out of place as a nudist at a fashion show.

The man has some pity for this young man, and looks out over his farm. "You want a job? OK, you can go feed the pigs." Did our younger son wince at the suggestion? Unclean is as unclean does, and here he is, going into a kosher nightmare. Did the man even know of the Jewish aversion to pigs? Did he even care? Was he looking into the eyes of the young man and thinking, "This kid is desperate, and will do any job I send him to!" Was the man playing with him...or was the man genuinely sympathetic to this kid on his doorstep?

How the mighty have fallen. Out to the pigpen our younger son goes. He’s hungry as all get-out. It’s not like he can nip into McDonald’s for a value menu item. He sees the pods the pigs are munching, and they start looking awfully inviting. Note: “no one gave him anything.”

Interesting—this young man, whose money jingled in the pockets of prostitutes and innkeepers all over town, this young man who was well known, is now refused all help. No food, no offers of assistance, no bed to sleep on.

Sometimes, when we are deep in our sin, God allows pain to come in and smack us into reality. Our pride has indeed led us to a fall, and in order for us to get up and out of our circumstances, the Lord closes all the doors, except one: the one that opens up to the road that leads to Him. Sometimes, that very road is paved with pain.

To be continued...

Saturday, March 12, 2022

God's Covenant with Abraham and Beyond!

Bear with me.  This is a bit long, but we need to establish the ground for the parables.  

In Genesis 15, God sets forth His covenant with the founder of the Jewish nation:  Abraham.  God promises an heir to Abraham, and to drive the point even deeper, He takes him outside, and showing him the stars in the night sky, says that Abraham’s descendants will be just as numerous. 

God’s first part of His covenant will be that an elderly man will be the father to a nation whose descendants will be as numerous as the stars.

Abraham’s part will be to believe in this promise—especially given the fact he has no son and is quite old, this is quite a step to take in faith.  Yet, he does: 

And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6)

The Lord then promises the second half of His covenant to Abraham:  Not only will he be the father of a great number of descendants, he will have a land to put them in: 

When the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. Now terror and great darkness fell on him. He said to Abram, “Know for sure that your offspring will live as foreigners in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them. They will afflict them four hundred years. I will also judge that nation, whom they will serve. Afterward they will come out with great wealth, but you will go to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation they will come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.” It came to pass that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. In that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I have given this land to your offspring, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…”  (Gen. 15:7-18 WEB)

God has Abraham divide several slaughtered animals into halves, and He then moves between them as a “smoking firepot with a blazing torch,” (NIV translation) which symbolizes His Presence.  In ancient times, both parties would walk through the two halves of slaughtered animals saying that if they did not honor the agreement, what happened to the animals would happen to one who violated the agreement (NIV 29).

 Interesting to note, the word “made” in verse 18 of Genesis is the same as the word “cut.”  So, in effect, the Lord “cut a covenant” with Abraham (NIV 29).    

Abraham later will try in his own power to make descendants with his maidservant, Hagar.  Sarah still has no children.  Abraham seems to have forgotten that God will keep His part of the agreement. 

Many years now have passed since Hagar had Ismael.  God appears to Abraham again and reiterates His part:

Abram fell on his face. God talked with him, saying, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you. You will be the father of a multitude of nations. Your name will no more be called Abram, but your name will be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you. Kings will come out of you. I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you. I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are traveling, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. I will be their God.” (Gen. 17:1-8 WEB)

(I bolded the words “as for me” because God is emphatically reminding Abraham of His part.)  Now, here comes Abraham’s part and the sign of His covenant: 

God said to Abraham, “As for you, you will keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. It will be a token of the covenant between me and you."  (Gen. 17:9-11 WEB)

With Adam, animals’ skin were cut away from their flesh to cover him and Eve.  The skin divided the wrath of God away from Adam.

With Noah, the rainbow cuts across the rain-swept skies, and divides the light of the sun away from the dark of the clouds.

With Abraham, each of his male descendants will bear, upon their own flesh, the sign of the covenant. 

Now, hundreds of years later, the children of Israel leave the land of Canaan due to famine. They go to Egypt and later will be enslaved by the Egyptians. God reveals His covenant to Moses:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:5-6 WEB)

These slaves of Egypt are God’s very own.  He has not forgotten them as they slave away under a desert sun.  God will, through Moses, deliver them and secure their freedom to serve Him as a nation who will model what it means to follow the one true God.  God will ensure they take the land successfully, and He will protect them (NIV 19).  They will be blessed with abundance and will be the apple of His eye.

They must live by His rules as revealed through His servant Moses. They are serving God’s involvement in human history (NIV 19). God’s purpose is to redeem His chosen ones, and then all of humanity. God’s instructions, given to the Jewish people, the Torah (“law,” “instruction”) will one day be fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:17).

Before they entered the Promised Land, they had to wander in the desert, again due to their disobedience.  A lamb or goat’s throat would be cut by the priests in the Temple of Meeting, and its blood would divide the people away from God’s wrath.  

His covenant was equally manifested in Israel’s King David.  God would establish and maintain David’s line on the throne, and David himself prefigured the ultimate King, the Messiah Himself:

Your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever before you. Your throne will be established forever. (2 Sam. 7:8-16 WEB)

David's earthly son, Solomon, builds the Temple, and although he did a wondrous work, he sinned grievously.  His sin did not negate God’s covenant with his father David, however.  God is faithful and brought about the New Covenant, from David’s line, just as He promised.  Another Son of David will come, whose kingdom is forevermore.  Now, the New Covenant looms over the horizon in Jeremiah:    

Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says Yahweh. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Yahweh; for they shall all know me, from their least to their greatest, says Yahweh: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more. (Jer. 31:31-4 WEB)

Can anything nullify God’s covenant with His people?  God continues:  

Yahweh, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirs up the sea, so that its waves roar; Yahweh of Armies is his name, says: If these ordinances depart from before me, says Yahweh, then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever.  Yahweh says: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, says Yahweh. (Jer. 31:35-37 WEB)

In other words, nothing can separate His love from His people.  God expands His definition of "people" to include us--we are among the stars Abraham saw in the sky--but He has not forgotten His chosen people, nor have they been replaced.   

In echoing all the way back to Adam, God could have, by divine right, eliminated Adam and all of his sinful descendants with a sweep of His mighty hand. He didn’t.  Hear what He says in Isaiah:  

“In overflowing wrath I hid my face from you for a moment;
    but with everlasting loving kindness I will have mercy on you,” says Yahweh your Redeemer.

“For this is like the waters of Noah to me;
    for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah will no more go over the earth,
    so have I sworn that I will not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
For the mountains may depart,
    and the hills be removed;
but my loving kindness will not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace will not be removed,”
    says Yahweh who has mercy on you.                   (Isaiah 54:8-10 WEB)

He proved His love to the point of sending His own Son to die and pay the price for our transgressions.  His blood splattered and God’s wrath was poured out.  The Lamb was slaughtered for us, and His love covers us.  Jesus’ blood divides us from God’s wrath.   He came to teach us these truths of His Covenant.  In fact, Jesus Himself is the New Covenant:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.' (Luke 22:19-20 NIV)

Jesus:  The “Seed of the Woman” Who walked out of the Garden with our first parents.

Jesus:  Who was blessed by a dove as He came out of the water, just as Noah was blessed by a dove going out over the water.

Jesus:  Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son Isaac, God was willing to sacrifice His only Son.  This time, He didn’t stay the slayer’s hand so we could be cleansed by His blood.

Jesus:  Just as the manna fed the freed slaves and provided them with nourishment in the desert with Moses, so too, does our Manna nourish and sustain us.

Jesus:  The Son of David, Whose own body would be cut for our salvation and Whose kingdom is forevermore. 

God’s covenant-love sings throughout Jesus’ words and parables.   Let us have eyes to see and ears to listen.   





Sunday, March 6, 2022

His Story in Response to Our Sin

Wow. Our ancestors denied God’s very nature and sought to control natural forces by their own practices, which led to rampant immortality and further alienation from God.

Behold His covenant, which is drawn deeply from the well of God’s love and presented in various ways and to various people over time, until its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. God sought to bridge the gap. He took the initiative. He reached out to us.

What is a “covenant”? The parallel words are “word,” “statute,” “precepts,” “testimony,” “law,” and “lovingkindness.” Vine’s puts it well: “These words emphasize the authority and grace of God in making and keeping the ‘covenant,’ and the specific responsibility of man under the covenant.” (51)

Did you catch that? It’s not just a bunch of rules and regulations designed to put us in a tiny box. His lovingkindness towards us shows us what constitutes righteousness and blessed living. Sin is actually what puts us into a box. He sets us free to be who we are in Him as we follow the very best instructions for our lives.

God reaches out to us and asks us to “enter into” His covenant with Him: 

That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day. (Deut. 29:12)

He asks us to “join” Him: 

They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. (Jer. 50:5) (Vine’s 51)

God initiates and we enter in, agreeing to obey what He asks of us:

Now Yahweh said to Abram, 'Leave your country, and your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.' (Gen. 12:1-3 WEB)

Notice what Abraham, who is to be the father of the Jewish nation, the Messiah and ultimately us, does:

So Abram went, as Yahweh had told him. Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” (Gen. 12:4 WEB)

God, speaking through another leader, Moses, tells the people that they are expected to do what the His commandments stipulate:

Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and to the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that you may live, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, gives you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you. (Deut. 4:1-2 WEB)

Ultimately, the foundation of His covenant is founded on love and loyalty between God and His chosen ones: 

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deut. 6:5)

Why? He is reaching out to us to bridge the gap between our sinful state and His holiness: “In the ‘covenant,’ man’s response contributes to covenant fulfillment; yet man’s action is not causative. God’s grace always goes before and produces man’s response.” (Vine’s 51)

In other words, when we, in our sinful thinking, try to please God, we degenerate into what Romans 1 describes. We listen to our own logic, grow dark in our thinking and then allow for the flesh to take over.  When God reaches out to us, in grace in and love, He clearly outlines what He expects of us. He will bless us if we obey and will punish us if we transgress. The consequences of obedience and disobedience are crystal clear.

Each time, as God unfolds His covenant to humanity, He seals the deal with a visible sign—a reminder to both parties of His covenant. It is the moment when God’s love intersects with a fallen humanity.

Let’s take a tour of His unfolding covenant throughout history. It really is His Story.

His covenant was set into motion in the Garden of Eden. God wanted to commune with our first parents. In order to do so, He stated to Adam:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen. 2:15-17)

The instructions are straightforward on what Adam and Eve are to do in order to continue their fellowship with God. If man obeyed, he would have the Garden in all its glory: meeting his needs and providing a place to walk and talk with God. If man disobeyed, the consequences were clearly stated.

Then came Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s explicit instructions. The penalty, clearly stated was enacted: expulsion and death.

Animals were killed to provide the clothes to cover Adam and Eve. What must they have thought as these animals looked up in expectation (fear of humans came after the Flood) and suddenly, they were dead. Adam and Eve had never seen death, and there it was—staring at them from lifeless eyes.

As God removed the pelts, the blood must have made Adam and Eve ill.  God places the pelts upon them. They must have been overwhelmed. These innocent animals, frolicking only a few moments before, are now dead for no other reason than Adam and Eve’s refusal to obey.  Their sin is now “atoned” for; their sin is covered, “Atonement” means a covering. 

But what a price that was paid.

They then leave the Garden with God’s angry words still ringing in their ears. But, even in God’s wrath, He sends them away with a promise of a future Redeemer, Who would take back this earth and free His enslaved children. Despite our first parents failing to uphold their part of His covenant, God didn’t want them to live in their fallen state forever:

Yahweh God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever...” Therefore Yahweh God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:22-24 WEB)

The ground would produce food to sustain humankind. But fellowship with God, face to face, was barred. It wasn’t that they just left the Garden; our first parents left God’s presence. Sin then goes on a rampage on earth as Adam’s children multiply. Could God sweep the whole planet out of existence because of humanity’s failure to uphold His covenant? Yes.

But He doesn’t.  He sees one man’s heart and calls him.

God commands Noah to build an ark and rescue his family from His coming wrath. God is acting as a Righteous Judge Who will pass sentence on an increasingly sinful world:

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart. Yahweh said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground—man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky—for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in Yahweh’s eyes. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Gen. 6:5-8 WEB)

So, in Genesis 9:8-17, God after having passed sentence, sets up His covenant with Noah. Noah is to replenish the earth with his children; all life will be food for him (along with the animals’ fear of man); meat for food is not to have blood in it; and because each person is made in God’s image, if that life is taken, the offender’s life will demanded for the redress of that loss.

Now, God’s part: He will never destroy life or the earth again with a flood. The sign of the His covenant will be the rainbow after the rain.

But God is not done providing, because man is not done sinning. Let’s go to the next phase of the covenant: the call of Abraham.

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