Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “The First of a Chosen People”
Text – Genesis 12:1-9
Today, we have reached a point in the Bible where the focus shifts, from events that affected the whole of humanity, to tracing the line of just one family. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we have seen how badly the human race had messed up God’s very good creation.
After they move on, the genealogy of a single family, tracing its descent through Shem, will be featured in much of the remainder of the Old Testament:
Today, I want us to spend a little time introducing ourselves to this man who would become the ancestor of the ‘seed’ through whom God intended to provide salvation to the world.
GOD CHOOSES ABRAHAM – Genesis 12:1-3
“The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
What do we know about Abraham, beyond genealogy, prior to God’s calling him? Nothing much, though it might be safe to assume that Abraham was one who worshiped God. We don’t know this for certain—he may have been a complete pagan. However, I don’t think so. I base my assumption on the fact that when God spoke to him, like Noah, he heard Him. Further, the immediate events that follow paint a picture of a man who understood who it was who had spoken to him.
How did God speak to Abraham? We do know that later accounts of God speaking to Abraham sometimes involved a personal visit, but often it appears that He just spoke to Abraham, as one does with someone who is standing nearby. How God chose to speak to Abraham at this particular point in history is unknown to us, but the message is not.
What did God tell Abraham to do? Leave everything you have known up to this point in your 75 years of life—your country, your relatives including your father’s family, and go to a land I will show you. Abraham is getting along in years. As one of two surviving brothers, with an aging father, he quite probably stood to inherit land, money and possessions after Terah passed.
God tells him to give it all up and God himself will make Abraham a great nation; He will provide blessing to Abraham and make him famous. In addition, others would know blessing because of him, or cursing if they treated him without respect. In fact, all the peoples of earth would be blessed through him.
Now think about it for a second, does this make much sense? From our vantage point we understand that God is working out His plan to have the Messiah, Jesus, born as a direct descendant of Abraham. But he wouldn’t have known this. Much of what God was promising could have been viewed as lofty ambiguities. At this point, God doesn’t tell Abraham how he will be blessed, just that he will be.
So, what does Abraham do after receiving this directive from God with its vague promises of blessing?
ABRAHAM OBEYS – Genesis 12:4-9
“So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, 6 Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.
7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the Lord, and he worshiped the Lord. 9 Then Abram continued traveling south by stages toward the Negev.”
What did Abraham do in response to God’s telling him to leave? He left. If he had any hesitation at all, the biblical account doesn’t mention it. He packs up his entire household—wife Sarai, nephew Lot and all his wealth, in the form of livestock, servants and slaves. He leaves knowing he may never return. He leaves nothing behind for him to return for.
He arrives in the land of Canaan and God now appears to him. He tells Abraham that the land he has arrived at will be given to…who? His descendants! How could Abraham have reacted? “Whoop-de-doo! Why couldn’t I have just stayed put and my lucky descendants made to move?” But he doesn’t. Instead, he builds an altar to worship God. He continues to travel, and again builds another altar.
So, for today, we’re going to leave Abraham traveling toward the Negev, a large desert area located in the southern region of modern day Israel and will pick-up his story next week…
But let’s take a moment to consider how this part of Abraham’s story relates to us personally…
For further study:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4isSyennFo&feature=emb_logo (The Bible Project – Genesis 12-50)
Sunday, February 7, 2021- “Our Family Tree - Through the Bible in 2021"- “Abraham: Man of Faith and Failure” (Genesis 13-18,20) - ONLINE Only
Daily Devotional January 28th
“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.” (Acts 12:1-3)
My Bible reading this morning has had me contemplating family legacies; there is one particular family in the Scriptures that played a significant role in Christian history during the time of Jesus’ life on earth and the early Church—that of the Herodian family line. In the New Testament we often read about ‘Herod’ but the stories account for not just one, but four separate individuals from four successive generations, all belonging to a family with a legacy of murder and opposition to God’s good plan.
First, we have Herod the Great, the Roman appointed King over Judaea at the time of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2). During his jealously guarded rule he had three sons and a favourite wife killed. When he heard of the birth of a new king of the Jews, he determined to stamp out this threat to his rule and ordered all the baby boys, two years of age and under, in and around Bethlehem, murdered.
His son, Herod Antipas, would be next to take the throne. His story is well-known for he is the Herod who married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias (John 14). He imprisons John the Baptist because John dares to call out his sin. His wife Herodias, herself a granddaughter of Herod the Great, seized her opportunity to extract revenge on John and had his head cut off and brought to her on a silver platter. He is also the same Herod to whom Pilate sent Jesus during his trial prior to being crucified.
The next Herod, Agrippa, nephew to Antipas, has derived notoriety for having murdered the first of the martyred apostles—James the brother of John, sons of Zebedee (Acts 12). When he saw how much this pleased the Jews, he had Peter arrested too, with the intent to put him on trial and then to face the same end as James. Peter escapes with the help of an angel, and Agrippa has all the guards killed as punishment for having let his prisoner go.
His son, Agrippa II, was the last of the Herodian line to bear the name ‘king.’ It is to this Herod and his sister, Bernice, that Paul appears to give a defense of his faith (Acts 25-26). Little more is known about him from biblical accounts, but early Roman writers record his incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice, never having married or of having children. The death of Agrippa II signaled the end of the Herodian dynasty, as Rome assumed full governance.
As interesting as the history is, I can’t help but be amazed at how much this one family is so intricately interwoven with God’s plan. Satan attempted to use this family—with their desire to hang onto power, desire for revenge and murderous problem-solving—to put a stop to God’s plan to provide a Saviour and to grow his kingdom on earth. They got played…bad! Each of the Herods could not have known the role they as a family were playing in a greater spiritual battle. Only on this side of history does it become so blatantly obvious. And while Satan thought he was using them to his great advantage, what he didn’t count on was that he was helping to create the scenario that would see God defeat him through his human pawns.
I am left with a number of thoughts from our quick perusal of the history of this family.
• What legacy can be traced through my family? Is it one worth expanding or is it time to write a new page?
• What sinful desires do I have that leave me vulnerable to being ‘played’ by the enemy of our souls, Satan?
• Even though Satan continues to try and interfere with God’s plan, he’ll never win. God sees the ‘end game’ and is more than capable of turning Satan’s plan on its proverbial head.
• Those of us on this side of history can see how the machinations of the Herodian family were all about self-promotion and the destruction of all rivals, but how God used them anyway to promote His plan; during the time they lived this was not so evident. There are many ugly scenarios and legacies playing themselves out in our world even today, but they will not have the final say. We can trust God…always and for eternity!
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional January 26th
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” ~ Jesus (John 13:34-35)
The word ‘Christian’ has become associated with hate in its many forms. For some people the mention of Christianity brings up painful memories; their experiences with those who claim the name of Christ have left them rejecting Jesus and the Church. The Bible does warn us that the world, those who do not follow the Way of Jesus, will hate those that do. Unfortunately, much of the world’s contempt is not due to our allegiance to Christ, but because of our blatant hypocrisy. No, Christians aren’t perfect and we will find ourselves guilty of hypocrisy at times. That’s not my larger concern. Even the world can appreciate a heart-felt apology when we recognize and openly admit our failures.
Our more serious problem is that we have forgotten what is to form the basis of our message of Good News. In so doing, the world has rejected us. We have too often neglected the Apostle John’s words and as believers don’t even recognize our own spiritual brothers and sisters. We have relied on the wrong criteria for identification. We draw conclusions about another’s spiritual life based on church attendance, political affiliation, the words they speak or how ‘blessed’ they appear to be. So, it’s no wonder that the world has no particular fondness for the term ‘Christian;’ we ourselves don’t recognize the true measure of determining someone’s loyalty to Christ. John is pointed in his declaration: others will know we are Christians by…our love!
Calling yourself a Christian is not enough to make yourself one. John warns us that if you don’t love, then you don’t know God and His love is not in you; “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). A Christian is an individual who has accepted the ultimate gift of love given to us through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, is committed to living in service for God and has the Holy Spirit living in them. Because one of the fruit of the Spirit is love, an individual with no love, logically does not have the Holy Spirit residing in them, and therefore is not a Christian. At the heart of Christ’s sacrifice for us is God’s love, a love that we are now impelled to live out each and every day.
The world needs a dose of true Christianity…the embodiment of God’s love. The love we share with others may be the only manifestation of God that they will experience. We as Christ-followers desperately need to reclaim the name of ‘Christian’ from those who have misused it, either for their own selfish purposes or because of their lack of understanding of what is to be the core of our testimony. Here are some final thoughts I hope that you will consider this morning:
1 John 2:5-6 “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” - Do the choices I make, the goals I pursue, the ways in which I interact with others resemble how Jesus lived during His time on earth?
1 John 3:16-17 “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?” - Compassion and generosity are evidence of the love of God residing in us.
1 John 4:12 “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” - God is made visible to the world through our lives when we truly love others…not merely give lip-service.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional January 25th
“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. 31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
I’ve noticed an increasing amount of self-care advice popping up these days. The advice ranges from food choices, exercise routines, ‘me’ time and distancing oneself from toxicity. The unending search for advice regarding self-care is one of our ways of trying to deal with sustained stress and anxiety, but too often the advice doesn’t go far enough. Much of what is suggested can be helpful, though sometimes contradictory, which is why it is important to use wise judgement when applying any of the ‘secrets’ discovered by influencers. We look for quick fix solutions to help us feel better physically and emotionally.
Today, I too want to share a secret with you…one that I promise will revolutionize your life! The secret I am about to share with you has improved my overall well-being like nothing else can. Since discovering this secret, I can honestly say I have experienced less anxiety and I have found my confidence boosted. Better still, I have discovered the secret to happiness and not just the kind that quickly evaporates under pressure, but a real joy and contentment for each day. My family and friends have noted the change in me. Even strangers comment.
My secret? Vitamin G-od! I can promise you with complete confidence that if you spend the same kind of time and energy with G-od to promote your spiritual well-being, as you do on other aspects of your self-care, you will be amazed at the results. Unlike other self-help advice, this is not a quick fix and won’t take away all your problems, but you will be able to experience a renewed purpose for living; you will know and experience real love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control. And the best part is that vitamin G-od is available to everyone. Your supply will never be cut off. But I must warn you that to experience full benefits you will need to be committed. I encourage you to get your daily dose today…and everyday!
~ Pastor Jane
Sunday Sermon Notes January 24th
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “What Did You Say?”
Text - Genesis 11:1-9
Solomon understood something that the people of our story today did not, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. 11 The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety. 12 Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor” (Proverbs 18:10-12). Today we are going to examine the story of the tower of Babel as found in Genesis 11.
For those of you familiar with this story, what happened during this point in history according to the Bible?
· The people decided to build a city and a great tower to reach into the heavens.
· God stopped the work by introducing a mix of languages; all the people up to this point after the flood had spoken one unified language.
· Because they could no longer communicate, the people chose to abandon the project and scattered throughout the lands.
Why would a unified work project by humanity cause such concern for God? That is one of the questions I hope to answer this morning.
BACK STORY - TRADITION OF NIMROD – Genesis 10:8-12
“Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.”
These days, the name ‘Nimrod’ is more likely to illicit indignation from an individual deemed one than in days gone by. The original bearer of the name, Nimrod, was in fact a mighty hunter warrior…not the imbecile of our modern day association.
Jewish and Christian tradition have long held that Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, built the city and tower of Babel. Though the Bible does not implicitly say this, there are clues that appear to indicate that it was indeed Nimrod:
· He lived in the area and the first centre of his kingdom was Babylon in Shinar (Genesis 10:10). Shinar was the plain on which Babel was built (Genesis 11:2).
· His genealogy and greatness are also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:10 “Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on earth.” His name and accomplishments were legendary, as is the story of Babel.
· The prophet Micah refers to Assyria, historically associated with the city and tower, also as the land of Nimrod (Micah 5:6).
But who was Nimrod? A warrior, king, tyrant or all of the above? The answer depends on who you ask. He was most certainly an influential man who wielded power. There is speculation that Nimrod lived his life in opposition to God; if he was in fact the king responsible for the construction of the tower of Babel, the story contained in Genesis 11 would appear to support this line of speculation.
Some scholars have suggested that the tower was an attempt to safeguard humanity from God. Can’t you just hear the challenge, ‘Try to cover the top of this tower with another flood if you can!” Rather than learning the lesson of obedience because of the flood, he may have been an individual who saw himself as acting out on the behalf of men in their striving against an unreasonable and controlling God.
Or perhaps he sought to build the tallest of towers in part to secure the favour of God; doesn’t the one closest to a deity have the exclusive ear of said deity. Some scholars believe that the tower was built like an Assyrian ziggurat, not only of architectural significance, but also religious, with a temple for worship at the top. If this was the case with the tower of Babel, however, it still doesn’t answer the question of which of the gods would be worshipped from its heights—Yahweh God or as some have suggested, Marduk, an ancient god of the Assyrians whose early history can be traced to the area inhabited by Nimrod.
We do not have proof positive that Nimrod was the influence behind the construction of the tower of Babel, but as he was the one credited with building the city of Babylon in the area of Shinar, also known as Babylonia, it is quite likely.
REJECTION OF GOD – Genesis 11:1-4a
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens…’”
These early people all spoke a single language, which would have made working together on a project of this magnitude feasible—a city and a tower to reach to the heavens. Modern day ruins of Assyrian ziggurats are impressive constructions still to this day…
· They were places of worship, built as the dwelling of a chosen god; they were not open to the public, but were only accessible by the priests.
· Ziggurats were constructed on a large base, with terraced levels, each successive one slightly smaller than the one below and finished with a flat top.
· Sunbaked bricks made up the core of the solid structure, with oven baked bricks forming the outside…making them waterproof. The outside was often glazed in different colours and kings sometimes had their names engraved on these glazed bricks.
· The ziggurats were often built as a part of a temple complex and would tower over everything else, hundreds of feet in the air.
Worship of Yahweh God was still a relatively simple affair, consisting of an animal killed and burnt up as a sacrifice on a stone altar. What was being proposed in Babel far surpassed what had been a part of Noah’s practice immediately after the flood. Their grand plan for the city and tower appears to challenge the requirements as set out by God and entirely disregards the practice of earlier generations.
We know what they wanted to build—a monument dedicated to themselves and whatever god they chose. The following verses serve to further illuminate the problem at Babel.
LOOKING TO BECOME GREAT – Genesis 11:4b
“…so that we may make a name for ourselves…”
Earlier I read Solomon’s words from Proverbs, “the name of the Lord is a strong tower.” It appears that the people, under the persuasion of one of the greatest warriors of ancient times, chose to reject the name of the Lord in favour of creating a name for themselves. What did that mean exactly?
Did they desire to worship a god of their choosing rather than the one true God? Did they desire to demonstrate their prowess and superiority over the other peoples of the world with their impressive architecture? Did they want to make themselves equal to God—living on earth, but invading and conquering the heavens as well? We don’t know, but the Bible does make one thing clear. They wanted to set themselves apart from all others, to intimidate and showcase their superiority, in order to revel in their own greatness.
They were rejecting their identification with the name of the Lord, to make a name for themselves. They could now have direct access to the god of their choosing on their own terms because of their own great accomplishments.
MAINTAINING CONTROL – Genesis 11:4c
“…otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
What had God commanded? Fill the earth—multiply and relocate. Their concern that they would be scattered appears to be in direct conflict with God’s desire. Some have argued that this was the instruction being disregarded that caused God to act. They certainly had no desire to be scattered. Were they just one big happy family? I don’t think so.
I, for one, doubt this was God’s primary concern. As their population grew, they would have naturally spread out. This morning, I would suggest that it was something far more sinister that caused God to act. There is a question that begs asking, “Was the decision to stay put in one place, a decision made by all the people or just those in leadership? Who was in control?
During my research, I found a number of articles that viewed Nimrod as a tyrant king. It is thought that the work of building the great city and tower was not being done by an egalitarian society guided by democratic policies for governing, but by slaves who found themselves conquered by the ‘great warrior,’ who saw himself as equal to god. We can certainly find similar situations recorded in the Bible, throughout history and even in modern day totalitarian regimes. “Bigger is better,” yes? And “might makes right!” The Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and other world conquerors know the truth of these principles. It is how the world gets things done. Enslavement by one group of people by another has a long history in the annals of humankind…as does the claim of being ‘gods’ by the so-called great men who lead these nations.
You’ll remember, too, that they were in the process of making a name for themselves. The last thing they wanted was to see their numbers dwindle, thereby making them vulnerable to being conquered by another group of people and in turn finding themselves enslaved. They were busy making plans to ensure their success and place in this world without any help from God.
Whatever the reason—refusal to scatter or the abuse of power—God chose to make it impossible for them to complete their plans.
REDIRECTION REQUIRED – Genesis 11:5-9
“But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
Why would a unified work project by humanity cause such concern for God? What was the issue…their unity or something else? One thing is perfectly clear, they were making plans independently of God. And haven’t we learned enough from earlier stories in Genesis that humanity messes things up terribly when we try to chart our own course without God to guide us?
Immediately after the flood we read God’s assessment of sin-infected humankind, “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). Our natural trajectory, apart from God, is the corruption of His Creation and of ourselves. God knew that if they were able to complete this project, their pride and independence would create a greater rift between Himself and His beloved humankind. Their downfall, sped along by unchecked pride and avarice, would come at lightning speed. He could not stand back and watch it happen, not so soon after He had hit the reset button with the flood.
And so God brings their work and their dreams of greatness to a crashing halt. He could have destroyed the tower, but instead He introduces confusion into their well-laid plans by making it impossible for them to communicate. Each person finds themselves speaking a different language from their neighbours and the building stops.
As a result, the original meaning of Babel, ‘gateway to heaven,’ came to mean something very different—'confusion.’ The people scattered, Nimrod goes on to build other cities, and once again, God has saved humankind from themselves.
How does this apply to me and you? What can we learn? Here are some questions for our consideration.
· What are you building for yourself today? What are your primary motivators in life? A great name? An impeccable reputation? A respected family? A financially secure future? A comfortable existence on this planet? Or does your heavenly bank account surpass that of your earthly one as you focus on storing up treasures in heaven?
· What are we building at Hope Chapel and in the Christian community? And what is our goal? Glory for God or acclamation for us? Lots of people attending? Polished programs? Financial stability? Modern facilities? Unfortunately, we don’t have to look very far to find examples of Christians who are building ‘towers’ in the name of God that bear far more resemblance to the tower of Babel—a name, greatness and security for themselves, all the while refusing to move out into the world to which we are told to go.
· What name serves as your tower? Are you relying on yourself for your own safety and security? Or do you say with Solomon, “The name of the Lord is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. 11 The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety. 12 Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor” (Proverbs 18:10-12).
Sunday, January 31, 2021- “Our Family Tree - Through the Bible in 2021"- Week #5 “The First of a Chosen People” (Genesis 12+13) - ONLINE Only – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Daily Devotional January 21st
“But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:3-4)
God values kindness. It is in fact one of His innate qualities. Those who are blessed to call themselves children of God, too, need to demonstrate the quality of kindness. It doesn’t come naturally to us because it requires that we set aside our own desires for another, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Fortunately for us, we don’t have to try to change our natural way of thinking and behaviour on our own. The Holy Spirit grows His qualities in us—one of which is kindness—when we allow Him to, so that when people see us they see Jesus, the one we serve.
God’s definition of kindness is different from ours. For instance, it is easy to be kind when we are looking to help someone in our family and friend circles, and our kindness is often underscored by an unstated expectation that we will be treated kindly in return. God’s requirements for showing kindness look very different.
• Luke 6:35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.”
• Proverbs 19:17 “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!”
• 1 Peter 3:9 “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”
• 1 John 3:17 “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?”
Your kindness, or lack thereof, is of keen interest to God our Father. He wants to see His children behaving in a manner that reflects how He has treated us—with love, graciousness, self-sacrifice, compassion and kindness! Today, is National Hug Day, which may prove difficult during a pandemic when we are supposed to stay socially distanced. So, instead of a hug, let’s find another means of spreading kindness today…without ulterior motives…to those least expecting it…because we are God’s children. Let’s bring a smile not only to another person’s face, but to our Heavenly Father’s as well.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional January 19th
“Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.” (Romans 14:4)
Today, I want to pick up where I left off yesterday, with Job trying to make sense of his suffering. I had suggested that one of the truths that we can glean from his story is that not all suffering comes as a result of being punished for wrongdoing. We must also take into account the fact that we live in a world that has been thoroughly infected with sin. Not to mention the mysterious workings of God, whose ways are beyond our ability to fully understand, as was the case in Job’s life. Because of these diverse reasons for suffering, another truth becomes crystal clear from Job’s story. We should be reticent to make judgments of another, something most of us are too quick to do.
Some people love to quote the verse, “Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1). They use it as a blanket statement in an attempt to prevent others from calling out sin…sometimes their own. But this is a misreading of the passage. There are many other verses that speak of the need to rightly assess and correct others, especially fellow believers.
• Matthew 18:15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.”
• Galatians 6:1 “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”
• 1 Timothy 5:20 “Those who [persist to] sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others.”
In the face of blatant sin, especially as it is found in the body of Christ, we are to remember that we are all sinful and in need of correction from time to time. We are not to be silent; but we are instructed to bring about loving correction for the purpose of restoration. That is not what we find in Job’s story, however. Even though Job’s friends had not witnessed any ‘sin,’ they made judgments against his character based on his life circumstances. And therein lies the problem. How can we judge another’s character based on their circumstances in life. Yes, poor choices do lead to regrettable consequences, but how can we judge another simply by the circumstances in which they find themselves. Each of us can point to times when we may have found ourselves suffering—ill health, loss of a job, death of a loved one, painful choices made by others—with no discernible reason. And while we often resent having others make judgments of us, we need to be just as quick to check our own presumptions. Could it be at times that those we find suffering are actually the most faithful of God’s servants? Job’s story certainly lends itself to this reality and should give us considerable pause before we give into the temptation of trying to assign guilt to an individual based on their life circumstances.
~ Pastor Jane
Daily Devotional January 18th
“Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to you, and you reply. Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin.” (Job 13:22-23)
During my morning Bible reading, I have found myself back in the book of Job and I have been struck anew with the challenge that is suffering. For those who aren’t familiar with Job, he was a righteous man by God’s standards who went through unparalleled suffering. In one day, he lost all his possessions to raiders and natural disaster; then came the devastating news that all ten of his children were dead due to a house collapse. Job’s response at the news of these calamities, delivered in quick succession, was one of grief and worship. Grief at his loss, but worship of God. Job understood that God did not owe him; who was he to tell God what He could and could not do? He came into the world with nothing; why shouldn’t he expect to leave the same way?
However, after an unknown amount of time, in addition to all of this loss, Job finds himself inflicted by excruciating boils, all over his body. He can find no relief from his suffering, not even death—a condition he considers better than the one he is currently forced to endure. His wife tells him to curse God and die, but he refuses. Three good friends hear of his misfortune and when they come to console him are aghast at his suffering; they sit with him for a week in silence, not knowing what to say, having no comfort to give. When they do finally speak it is to bring accusation. They begin with the suggestion that God is good and will forgive Job if he confesses whatever sin he is being punished for. Job is adamant—he has committed no sin for which confession is due. He recognizes his imperfection, especially in comparison to God, but he refuses their judgment that his suffering is for some hidden sin. It gets ugly after that. Job’s ‘friends’ accuse him of being nothing more than an arrogant windbag, obstinately holding onto a pretext of righteousness; Job responds that he wishes they would just shut up and leave him alone.
This morning, I came to realize something new. It wasn’t just Job’s friends who assumed suffering was punishment for sin; it was also Job’s understanding and it left him bewildered. Everyone ‘knew’ that God blessed the righteous and judged sinners, but Job knew he had no unconfessed sin and he felt betrayed not just by his friends but by God.
I wonder how often we’ve felt like Job—betrayed by God. We have been blindsided by life and can find no reason for it. We don’t want to suffer, so we try to understand it. If we can understand why suffering happens, we can avoid it. If suffering can be explained as a result of punishment for sin, not only can we avoid it, but we can let ourselves off the hook of helping others when they find themselves in the midst of suffering.
There is much about the story of Job that leaves us puzzled, but one thing should be crystal clear—while suffering can come as a result of punishment for sin, it is not the answer in every instance. Some have suggested that suffering is as a result of living in a fallen world. That too is true, but doesn’t answer the question of why the unevenness of suffering around our globe exists; while some on the face of our planet appear to glide through life, others must fight for survival from the moment of their birth. In the case of Job, his suffering comes as a result of a wager of sorts. Satan accuses God of playing favourites to gain favour and compliance from Job; God stands up for Job’s character by permitting the enemy to test him—up to, but excluding, bringing about his demise.
When Job demanded to know why he was being treated so, God refused to give him an answer; but He did remind Job of his place. No, Job’s suffering was not as a result of punishment, but no answer God could give to Job would have seemed fair or right. Job’s limited capacities as a created being would have in all likelihood prevented him from being able to understand God’s ways, which we are told are beyond our comprehension (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may not like the answer, but the fact is that we will often not understand the why of suffering; and quite frankly, God does not owe us an explanation. He is God, we are the created. He is master, we are His servants. He is Father and we are His children. God is loving, compassionate, gracious and just; He is also incomprehensible and Sovereign. Ours is to trust and obey.
~ Pastor Jane
Hope Chapel Sunday Service Notes
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, January 17, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Starting Over”
Text - Genesis 6:5-10:32
Over the past ten months, if I was a betting person, I would wager that each and everyone of us has prayed for God to intervene in some area of life: the pandemic, the US elections and continuing conflict or maybe a personal issue that is just too big to deal with on our own.
We have all known times when God has miraculously healed someone of an illness, temporarily putting a stopper in death; and, times when individuals we have prayed for have died. We have witnessed the unexplainable turning of a storm; and, the destruction as unchecked storms have ravaged whole countries. In this past year we have watched a virus wreak havoc on some communities, while others have gone minimally impacted. Why does God intervene at times and not at others?
We may be tempted to accuse God of playing favourites, of being deaf to our pleas or just being fickle. We live in a world that is not fair…but should the same be said of God? In our frustration, we search for someone to blame and the Sovereign God over the whole universe seems like a likely target…isn’t He the one in charge of this mess? But that’s human pride speaking, bound by a lack of understanding, and limited by time and space.
Why does God sometimes intervene and at others times appears to do nothing? I don’t know. And that’s okay. Even if God told me everything He is doing, it is doubtful…given my limitations as a created being…that I could begin to grasp its complexity. Though we will never fully understand God’s ways this side of the grave, maybe this morning’s examination of our spiritual family tree will provide us with some clues.
For those of you who were a part of our Zoom call last week, you may recall that unchecked pride in the human race had led them down a path from which they were incapable of returning from. Genesis six tells us that the sinfulness of humanity had become nearly unbreachable. Left to their own devices they appear only capable of destroying themselves and the whole of creation. As God now looked at His Creation “He saw that everything people thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5).
Last week I asked the question: If you were God, what would you have done? I want to pick up there.
God decided to start over. The story of Noah, the Ark and the great flood is probably the best known story of the Bible, possibly surpassing the story of the Nativity among people who know very little about the Bible. There are many civilizations that hold to a ‘flood myth’ which some scholars point to as proof of the Bible’s simply having copied one of these; I would contend that flood myths exist in so many of the civilizations and religions of the world because they share a common source—the true story of the great flood as contained in the Bible.
However, as well known as it is, I would guess that the facts are not that well known at all. And you know what that means…it’s quiz day!
CONDITION OF HUMANITY – Genesis 6:5-13
“The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8 But Noah found favor with the Lord.
9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. 10 Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. 12 God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt. 13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!”
With the exception of one man, the whole of humankind had earned God’s disfavour. God had provided them with a ‘very good’ creation, but by the time of Noah, it appeared beyond repair… without a direct intervention on God’s part.
The condition of humanity left to their own devices, apart from God, is truly scary! “When[ever] humanity defines good and evil for themselves, it results in a world of death and tragedy” (The Bible Project). We have far different priorities than God and different means of achieving our goals. We make it a ‘dog eat dog’ world.
We might be tempted to speculate concerning just how sinful humanity had become. What line had they crossed? We find hints. It is obvious that God steps in, not only because they have disobeyed Him, but to rescue humanity from themselves.
God chooses to ‘reboot’ humanity—“out of His passion to preserve the goodness of this world He washes it clean with the flood” (The Bible Project). Like going back to the manufacturer’s settings.
GOD INTERVENES – Genesis 6:6-8; 7:1-5
“So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, ‘I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.;’ 8 But Noah found favor with the Lord…
When everything was ready, the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I can see that you alone are righteous. 2 Take with you seven pairs—male and female—of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. 3 Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird. There must be a male and a female in each pair to ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood. 4 Seven days from now I will make the rains pour down on the earth. And it will rain for forty days and forty nights, until I have wiped from the earth all the living things I have created.’
5 So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.”
Because of God’s great love, He couldn’t just sit back and watch the destruction of His ‘very good’ creation. He isn’t cold and removed from the dealings of this world as some suggest. The primary emotion of God as He sees what has become of His Creation is not anger, but rather we find a father who is utterly heartbroken and filled with regret.
But even at this dark moment—God’s regret over having created humankind—He doesn’t decide to wipe all life from off the face of the planet. He makes His intent known to Noah. Pairs of all animals are needed to ‘ensure that all life will survive on the earth after the flood.’ After the flood, life will continue anew.
From our limited viewpoint, we might have been tempted to simply wipe the whole thing clear…these ingrates are more trouble than they’re worth. But God’s got a bigger plan at play—a plan that began before the first of His creation came into being. He will not simply decide to cancel all of human life, but He will begin again with a faithful remnant, Noah. As humans, we can only know what we have experienced; but God has a much bigger viewpoint of the whole of human existence—past, present and future. And even though He chose to begin again, He wasn’t prepared to wash His Hands of us.
AFTER THE FLOOD – Genesis 8:1, 15-22; 9:12-17
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.
Then God said to Noah, 16 “Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. 17 Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.”
18 So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. 19 And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. 21 And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. 22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night’…
12 Then God said, ‘I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.’ 17 Then God said to Noah, ‘Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.’”
What goes through Noah’s mind as he floats on the flood waters, then becomes lodged on a mountain, knowing that the occupants on the ark are all that are left? Days turn into weeks…into months…and finally they mark a full year of having lived on the ark. Has God forgotten them? The biblical account provides no evidence that God spoke with Noah during their yearlong ‘cruise’…He had told them to enter the ark and had Himself closed the door; the Bible doesn’t record God’s providing any further instruction to Noah until it is time to leave the safety of the boat. But each time God spoke, no matter how much time had transpired since the last time, the Bible records Noah’s unhesitating obedience.
God sent the flood and rescued Noah, his family, and all the animals and then instructed them to pick up where they had left off, with a couple of variants:
I don’t know about you, but I am left asking, “What did the flood accomplish?” We might be tempted to turn skeptic…all that loss of life for nothing. But maybe the better question is, “What would have happened if God had not sent the flood?” His intent was to ‘preserve’ life even as all living creatures outside the ark perished. Could it be that humanity, without the flood, would have done a more thorough job of exterminating all life? Could it be the flood actually worked as humanity’s salvation?
From a purely human perspective, we may simply never know the answers to those questions. In fact, as the story continues we are left with even more questions and confusion as to why God bothered to preserve a remnant…
INCOMPLETE STORY – Genesis 9:20-29
“After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. 21 One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.
24 When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. 25 Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham: ‘May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.’
26 Then Noah said, ‘May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant! 27 May God expand the territory of Japheth! May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.’
28 Noah lived another 350 years after the great flood. 29 He lived 950 years, and then he died.”
There is this brief narrative contained at the end of Genesis chapter nine which has left scholars scratching their heads for millennium. What exactly happened in the tent when Ham found his father drunk? Why was it that Canaan was cursed? Like the story of Genesis six and the account of ‘sons of God,’ ‘daughters of man’ and ‘giant Nephilite,’ there is no definite conclusion to be drawn.
There have been innumerable theories that range from a literal reading of the text—Ham saw his father naked—to those that have been drawn from the euphemistic use of ‘uncovered nakedness.’ It appears that Ham may very well have done something quite nasty to his own father which the writer chose not to expound on. Suffice it to say that something that Noah deemed unforgiveable happened and he cursed his grandson as a result.
God had saved one family and they, too, proved incapable of living in a manner that God approved…even after having escaped death in the flood and spending a year on the ark!
Noah lived 350 more years after the flood; his sons and their wives began to repopulate the planet—Genesis chapter ten ends with, “All the nations of the earth descended from these clans [from Noah’s sons] after the great flood” (v.32). Yet sin remained and a greater intervention on the part of God, on humanity’s behalf, would still be required for God to reclaim the ‘very good’ of His Creation.
How does this apply to me and you? What can we learn?
For further study:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQI72THyO5I (The Bible Project – Genesis 1-11)
Sunday, January 24, 2021- “Our Family Tree - Through the Bible in 2021"- Week #4 “What did you Say?” (Genesis 11) - ONLINE Only
Daily Devotional January 14th
“But forget all that [which happened in the past]—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
I am so glad for God’s reminders during this time of the pandemic that we do not meet for church, but rather we—Christ-followers around our globe—are the Church. Buildings should not define ‘church’ or provide parameters within which the work of God is accomplished. Our buildings are not what connects us…they are simply convenient places to meet together. As the body of Christ, we have a far greater ‘connection’ than wood, brick or mortar—we have the Holy Spirit connecting us together, with our Saviour and to our Father!
That truth aside, I am greatly concerned for those who do not possess or simply have not pursued means of connecting with other believers. Whether in-person, online, in socially distanced groups or even over the phone, it is important for the Church to get together. Even though the ‘where,’ ‘when’ and ‘how’ do not matter, the ‘who’ and ‘why’ does.
The ‘who’ are Christ-followers, those with a shared faith in our Lord Jesus. Hebrews 10:25 tells us, “Don’t neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Some believers insist that this verse is a directive to meet in-person, but I don’t think so. The early church met in the Temple court and synagogues, but also in people’s homes—wherever was available, could become a meeting place. The pandemic with its restrictions on meeting together, has provided a ready excuse for those who were looking for one not to have to ‘go to church.’ As pointed out earlier, we don’t ‘go’ to church…my dear Christian friend, the Church is no further away than your mirror! Unlike the early church, our day and age has provided us with a vast number of possible places to meet—we are not limited to simply meeting physically; we also possess a number of connecting points—phone, mail, online. We have no reason not to meet together as instructed by the writer of Hebrews.
For me, the more important aspect of believers meeting together is the ‘why.’ Scripture tells us that we need to connect with others of like-faith for encouragement, to ‘spur’ one another on to love and good deeds, for accountability, for teaching and admonishment, for prayer and for worship (Hebrews 10:24-25; Colossians 3:16-17; James 5:16). If we are counting on a Sunday morning to fulfill this obligation, we are sadly missing the point. The early church met ‘daily’ (Acts 2:46). Meeting together wasn’t something they scheduled into their week; it was a way of life. We should be connecting with others who follow Christ as Lord on a regular, even daily basis! Yes, out of the need to try and control a virus wreaking global havoc, the Church has been instructed to close its buildings…for now. That doesn’t mean we are being told to stop being the Church!
In our small congregation, I have noted a very interesting thing that God is doing. If the virus were to all of a sudden disappear and we were permitted to meet in our building as we had pre-covid, we would still need to meet online. Our small group of believers has become an international group, many of whom could not be a part of our meeting together if we reverted to relying on our building. We have people from Collingwood, Stayner, Meaford, Barrie, Innisfil, Hamilton, Kitchener, British Columbia, Arizona and Barbados; even some of those located in Ontario would be hard-pressed to get to our building in Collingwood. The number of communities now represented by God’s global Church in our small congregation is capable of extending a far greater influence than was possible for us to do even a year ago. God is up to something new and I for one am excited to see what He will do next in and through His Church…which is us!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!