Genesis 22 – not for the Kiddos?

John Walton in his book , The Bible Story Handbook, has some good notes on Genesis 22. However the last line says, “Finally, this is not a story to tell young children.”

So we are telling the story in church before the Children’s Church leaves the service.  this means all kids over 5 years are in church.

It is a hard story – Abraham asked to take his own sons life.  Is it too much for kids?  Will they become insecure at home?

It also depends on the telling – how much the story-teller magnifies the drama and the fear and loathing that went along with this event.  Something else to ponder this

Genesis 22 – approaching a text

So Genesis 22, where Abraham is asked to offer Isaac as a sacrifice is an amazing passage. For example:

  • How could God ask this?
  • Does this condone human sacrifice?
  • Would Abraham be in Jail if he tried this today?
  • Is this a description of how God did offer his own Son on a hill?
  • Does this compare to the passage later where Moses offered to remove himself from “the book” if God would forgive the people?
  • What does the text intend for us to understand?

Just starting, I’ll let you know later what I come up with.

Cartography is not in my future

It is sometimes helpful in reading the text to find a Bible Atlas or other resource and try to plot out the locations of the story. In Genesis 14 there are 11 kings, about half a dozen battles, and a number of geographic details that mapping clarifies.  It is nice to fond one that was done by an expert.  But scratching out your own map is an exercise in paying attention to the details. I cross referenced my two Biblical Atlases (Oxford Bible Atlas and New Bible Atlas) a Study bible (which often have maps in the back) and commentaries.

Above is my work.  It got me to thinking about getting goat-herd soldiers to take on a larger force of battle tested soldiers lead by a man with a vision from God.

Telling, Teaching & Preaching

Sometimes we can deal with the same biblical passage in a variety of ways.  Much of the scriptures are in the form of stories (narrative).  Hence we can simply tell them.  This is how these stories were passed down until the point when they were compiled in the sacred text.

Telling in an oral culture, one without writing, can be a very stable form of communication.  Important history can be carefully passed from generation to generation without much change.

Teaching has another purpose.  It is to divide and define.  It is more analytical.  Often it takes the form of an informative lecture.

Preaching has as its goal to call the people of God to keep the word of God in their lives. It is not enough to define the bits and pieces of a story. It is not yet enough to pass on the information.  It involves a call to believe, obey, turn from error – in short, it calls for a response.

I’ve been telling the bible story at our children’s mid-week ministry, to  3rd to 5th graders.  My telling is freer than the passing on of ancient tales.  It is an attempt to tell the story in terms that kids can relate to.  A little drama and some movement is always good.  A few shouts here and there – especially if the kids get to join in.  We actually shouted down the walls of Jericho – ours were made of paper-bag blocks.

This summer I am both telling the text as story for he whole church, kids included, and then preaching to the adults.  It will be interesting to see if the adults will like the story telling as much as the kids.

To do this for Genesis 14, I spent a good hour trying to track down place names in and around Canaan.

It is because I like these two parts that I am better suited to church ministry than to academia.  I love the scholars, but I am not one of them.

the first 200 pages of Sailhamer

Having read the first 200 pages of “The meaning of the Pentateuch” I am able to summarize his point, I think.  Revelation is in the form of scriptures.  Many have fallen off the track by elevating the historic background or the acts of God in history to the place of revelation.  While background and events are important ( they needed to have happened, of course) they are not revelation.  Revelation is what the text, made up of words and sentences has to say.

The other interesting thing, now we are over the introductory hurdle, is to see him make his case that the Pentateuch is more about the life of faith (Abraham) than the life under the Law (Moses.)  It was also interesting to see his idea that disobedience brought a more legally complex set of regulations on the people of God than what was first given at Sinai.

Now for the next 400 pages.

If you read this book, please come and play.

The City of God – Revelation 21 and Psalm 87

from the garden to the city

It is interesting to put scriptures next to each other.  On thing to notice is that Revelation 21 and 22 portray a New Jerusalem that is a sort of restoration of the condition of Eden.  There is there a river that flows through it, as a river flowed through and watered Eden. There is a Tree of Life by that river, just as there was a tree of life in Eden, to which the exiled couple were not allowed to return.  There is no curse in this city, which has not been the case for humanity since the curse was laid down in Genesis 3.

The bible starts in a garden and ends in a city.

It is also interesting to put the discussion of the walls and foundations of the city together with the Psalms of Zion. One such is Psalm 48.  But I find the international flavor of Psalm 87 interesting.

 Revelation 21

There are three gates on each side – North, South, East and West.  These gates are formed of a single pearl.  Yes, these are the pearly gates from the old Gospel song – “He the pearly gates will open.”  Each of these gates bears the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel.  This is to say that the full number of Spiritual Israel will be there.  The New Testament says that we Gentiles also become descendants of Abraham when we have faith in Christ.

There are 12 layers of foundation.  These are made of precious stones.  Each of these layers is named for one of the 12 Apostles.  This means that this city is built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There is no other name by which Salvation is given.  But Salvation is given freely through the preaching of the Gospel.

Psalm 87 talks about the gates and the foundations of Zion – the other name for Jerusalem.

1 He has set his foundation on the holy mountain;

    the Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are said of you,
O city of God: Selah
“I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me—
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—
and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion. ’”

Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
“This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.”
The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
“This one was born in Zion.” Selah
As they make music they will sing,
“All my fountains are in you.”

                           It says that the Lord loves the gates of Zion ( a synonym for Jerusalem).  It says that God has established the foundation – as we see the foundation of the New Jerusalem is the word of the 12 apostles. He loves the gates because it is through the pearly gates that the redeemed enter the city.  It says who gets to go – those who are born in Zion.  The word we use, “Born Again” can also be translated, “Born from above.”  When we receive the gospel  are born again and made citizens of Zion, the New Jerusalem.  Psalm 87 lists surrounding nations (Rahab is Egypt) and some of them were the enemies of Israel.  The Lord writes their names in the register of the citizens of that city.  In Revelation 20: 12, 15 and 21:27 there are references to the Book of Life.   This city has everything we need, but it does not have some things.  It has no Seas, no Temple, no Son, no Moon, no Night, no uncleanliness and no remnants of the curse of sin.

Revelation 18 and 19 record the fall of Babylon.  Babylon there represents human civilization based on self love and materialism along with injustice and false worship.  We can never find our meaning in pleasure and rebellion.  Materialism is not the fountain of happiness.   Instead we need to find, like the saints in Psalm 87, that “all our fountains are him you.”

Names of God – He has an app for that!

A number of the names of God are attached to historical events.  I will be exploring this in a sermon series at Bethany Church this summer.  The title is “He has an app for that.”  The idea is that there are a variety of places or circumstances we can fall into where we need to call on the Lord for help.

I’ll also be telling the scripture as story before the kids head off to Junior Church.

Pick a Book – some preaching on Revelation 20

Books of Judgment:

Then some books are opened. First there are the record books.  Every person is then judged by their actions.  God keeps a record of our words and our actions.  It says two times that the dead are judged by what they had done as it is recorded in the books.

Many people are confident that they are good. They think God will measure our lives and say that we are ok.

One teacher said that as the record of our deeds are read out, that our good and our bad are put on a balance. If we measure good, we get heaven. If we measure out bad, we get hell.

But that idea is not in the bible.  The bible only says that we are condemned by our works. We already know what is in this book of records.

Romans 3:23  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The verdict for every person will be:  GUILTY

What do you think God has written down for you?

There is enough sin in every person go convict us.

The Book of Life:

The good news is that there is another book.  The book of the records of our lives only gives bad news.

The other book has good news.   It is called the Book of Life.

It contains Names.  It does not contain our sins or our good deeds. It has names.  It is simple how it works.  If your name is written in the book of life, you will be forgiven of your sins and given life.

If your name is not written in this book, then you have to take the punishment for your sins.  Here is what Revelation says about that:  “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

Our sins then would condemn us to the fire with the Dragon and the 2 beasts.

The Book of Life is mentioned through the bible.

Moses offered to remove his name from the book of Life if God would forgive the sins of Israel – God said that he would not do that.  Moses could not trade his life for theirs.  [Exodus 32]

Daniel the prophet spoke of the book of life that would be revealed in the last days.

Jesus spoke of the book of life in Luke 10 – He said to his followers that they should not be proud of what good works they did for the Lord, He said, “…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  [Luke 10:17-20]

Paul speaks of the book of life.  [Philippians 4:3]

And it is mentioned 5 times in the book of Revelation.  [3:5; 13:8; 20:12-15; 21:27]   The last time it says

”Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”  Revelation 21:27

So the most important question is this.  Who gets their name written in the Book of Life.

The clue is that it is called the Lamb’s book of life.  This is the book of all those who’s sins were paid by the Lamb of God.  Jesus offered his life in exchange for ours.  Moses tried to do that, but God did not accept Moses offer.  But when Jesus gave is body over to death for us, he became our substitute.

The only way to be in the book of life is to receive Jesus, the lamb of God, by faith.

Have you done that?  Before we go to take communion, I want to pray.  If you know that you belong to him, thank God for the gift of forgiveness.

If you don’t, I invite you to ask for his forgiveness.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, you are the Lamb of God.  I confess my sins.  My sins are written in your book. By these sins I deserve death.   Forgive me  in Jesus name.  Erase from your book all of my sins.  Come into my heart.  Include my name in the book of Life.  Amen.

Hell – there is a topic!

So as to the question on why people go to hell.  It is popular for preachers to say, “you go there for not believing”.  It is popular for many to question God’s justice, because  it seems arbitrary.

Consider Romans 2:6-8 –    He will render to each one according to his worksto those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

And Revelation 20:11-15 – 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life,he was thrown into the lake of fire.

So it would seem that the basis of judgment is what each person has done.  Forgiveness is then an escape from this earned punishment – and that is where grace and faith come into play.

Psalm 32:1-3

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.