[The penultimate day is here. Everyone is feeling the exhaustion creeping up. We’ve been well fed – physically and spiritually – and today’s the big day when the delegates begin to synthesise their strand material and formulate a bible study/talk. Your prayers are appreciated as we round the last bend and head into the last stretch. But first, Derek Hanna up speaking on 5 chapters from Genesis 5-10!]
Day 4 | Morning Session | Derek Hanna: Loving Enough To Judge [Genesis 5-10]
Judgement Vs. Tolerance
The story of Noah is a confronting story. When you live in a Christian bubble you can make this story really cute and domesticated. We have lots of toys of Noah’s Ark – we make it really cute, the animals look fun, the happy ending… it all looks fun, until you remember that thousands of people died. Richard Dawkins thinks that the story of animals coming into the ark is charming, but also morally reprehensible – how could God kill humanity like that, and also kill the animals. This story, for Dawkins, is another nail in the coffin for God.
In the William Lane Craig vs Lawrence Krausse debate – Krausse attacked the bible on the issue of the killing of the Canaanites. He argued that no God would commit genocide like that. The response to that should have been that the story neither proves nor disproves God – but that all you can say is you disapprove of how God judges.
But this story in Noah is so much more.
A God who grieves
First we need to see that God’s grief starts this story off. Genesis 6:1-4 is a little confusing and strange – but what we generally see is that there is fundamentally wrong with creation. This is a continuing corruption of creation – the ‘sons of God’ might be understood to be rulers of the time – and that they were taking new wives away from their new husbands to lie with them (right of first choice). This is a corrupt society. So what God does is limit their rule by limiting their lives to 120 years instead of the long lives we’ve seen in the other genealogies.
But God’s gentle judgement of limiting their lives seems to have no effect. 6:5 and 6:12 onwards spells this out. Every inclination of humans was away from God – every thought and deed was in rebellion against God.
The pain that God feels in 6:6 is similar to the word of ‘pain’ in childbirth upon women. God regretted that he had made man on earth and was deeply grieved. And this grief reveals both his deep love of creation and his understanding of how deep the problem runs – how wrong it is that it exists in this world. The picture of God’s grief gives us an insight into the ‘grief’ that the Spirit feels in Ephesians 4:30-31. When there’s bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour, etc (v31) in us then we grieve God. While those sins are against others, the first and foremost one grieved is God. David knows this as well from Psalm 51 – in which he says, ‘Against you (God) and you alone have I sinned…’ Uriah might have objected to that – but David knew that the first person he had wronged was God.
We might find that generally unacceptable. If I blew up at someone who I thought was a friend we might think that our issue is with that friend… but the Bible says that this issue is first and foremost against God. This is difficult to communicate to our world – that sin is not just against others, but against God first. How can we communicate this? Here’s Derek’s attempt:
Derek had an exchange student from Japan staying with them. He stayed in their house and others – and Derek’s boys loved him. He was the most polite person ever to stay at his house – he offered to cook, clean, and low impact. You would hardly see him around the house. The garden was clean, the sun shone when he was around. Here was a man in his house respecting the house and lovingly engaging with the family.
Now imagine that this boy now started to not acknowledge Derek, didn’t engage with him, didn’t interact with Derek. It wouldn’t matter if he did all that other stuff – because if he lived in Derek’s house and didn’t acknowledge him then we would think that was strange and wrong. We think that if this student was trashing the house then that is a clear problem. But even while he was that house and living a good and moral and upright life, if he ignores Derek whose house he is staying in – using his house and enjoying the fruits of Derek’s labour, there is a fundamental problem.
See – we forget that this is God’s world and believe it is ours. We think we’re morally upright and define what it is. And we wreck it.
We cannot live in this world and ignore the God who made it.
In Genesis 6 we’re not sure exactly what’s wrong, but we can be sure that it’s not a Genesis 2 picture.
A God who judges
So what does God do? From 6:13 onwards his actions are a reversal of Genesis 1. He systematically dismantles all the work in Genesis 1 – what happens is un-creation. Instead of waters separated from land, now the distinction is gone – water covers the earth. Instead of populating the earth with life now that life is taken away. We see here the depths of God’s pain – that everything, even those that were made in his image, are un-created.
Putting aside the big scientific questions about the flood, and keeping with what the author is trying to say – we see that this act was an act of uncreation.
So how do we explain to people that God would arbitrarily flood and kill all of mankind? There are two unhelpful paths that we can go down in order to explain it.
First – the danger of explaining away the unexplainable. This is a challenge when it comes to other commands like God’s command to wipe away the nations in the conquest – same in 1 Sam 15 the wiping out of the nation there. There can be a tendency to say, ‘These people got what they deserved.’ We read that some of these Canaanite societies were committing child sacrifice – wow, they deserved it. Right? Well, nations are complex things. Even in Nazi Germany not all Germans were supports of the Nazi’s. Could the write of Genesis been a little more nuanced? (A good book on this topic is ‘Is God a Monster?’)
See on some level when we get to these issues we have to let God be God. He may do things we can’t understand, can’t fathom. We do need to let the clear interpret the unclear. God does clearly reveal his character in the Bible – particularly in the Lord Jesus.
Second – another unhelpful response is to bury our head in the stand – to wash our hands clean of it. To say that the God of the OT is not the God I know – the God I know is in Jesus who loves and gives his life. But in doing this we create a bipolar God in our liking. You end up creating a soft God who can’t deal with the hardship and suffering and evil of this world.
Just because God’s judgement, or any other aspect of God, makes us uncomfortable doesn’t mean we can ignore it and not deal with it. If God is a person then there may be parts of him that resonate with you and some parts that don’t. Some parts we might not like.
See if everything God says to you makes you fine and comfortable then you are probably not dealing with or engaging with the God of the Bible. If God is real surely there is a possibility that he hasn’t told me everything I want to know
Judgement is something that God does. But we need to keep reading the story – for we will find that God desires to judge without condemnation.
A God who’s determined to save
Genesis 6:8 – Noah finds favour with God. He has integrity, is righteous and blameless. Noah’s name means ‘relief’ – and in him there’s a sense in which Noah gives relief to us the reader and to God. We know the story – Noah is selected, set apart, and given the big task of building the boat and helping the animals on board.
In Noah and the saving of his family, we see God has not abandoned his creation. Now he is like a new Adam – the instructions to Noah and his family echo the instructions given to Adam. And then he makes a covenant with Noah to never again strike down the whole of creation like this – confirming it with a rainbow.
And yet even within this new creation there is a tingle, a warning that this isn’t going to last. See 8:21 – while God will not again smite the earth, human hearts have not changed. And then moments after walking off the boat we have a bizarre encounter in chapter 9. 9:18ff – as soon as God has reestablished creation, the next Adam gets on the booze and his sons shame him. Talk about short-term memories. Another Fall.
Reflections for us…
Here’s the thing about God’s judgement. We often think that God does need to judge the most heinous and evil of people – but that we are fine. We’re on the right side of (judgement) history. But really… where is the line between ok and ‘should be judged’?
In Romans 3 we see that God does judge. 3:1-20 there’s the clear bad news that all of us are on the wrong side of (judgement) history.
3:21ff there is now one who has come and taken God’s judgement upon himself. What we see in these verses is that the sin that is so prevalent in this world is not overlooked – it is dealt with. 3:25 God deals with all that sin on his Son. 3:26 God must judge because he is just – but he is also merciful. In the cross we see that God is righteous in and of himself – and his declaring of others righteous by faith in Him is also an act of God’s righteousness.
This idea that faith in Jesus alone is the only way to be saved is repugnant to this world. Our world wants all people to go to heaven because we’re all basically good. And here we come with this news that only through Jesus can this happen.
A few years ago in a NY Times article Tim Keller was asked whether this was right – right that good people should go to hell. Keller replied,
“You imply that really good people (e.g., Gandhi) should also be saved, not just Christians. The problem is that Christians do not believe anyone can be saved by being good. If you don’t come to God through faith in what Christ has done, you would be approaching on the basis of your own goodness. This would, ironically, actually be more exclusive and unfair, since so often those that we tend to think of as “bad” — the abusers, the haters, the feckless and selfish — have themselves often had abusive and brutal backgrounds. Christians believe that it is those who admit their weakness and need for a savior who get salvation.”
And that’s right. We don’t get in by our goodness – but by admitting our weakness and need for a saviour.
The story of Noah, as understood by the Apostle Peter – 2 Peter 3 – is a reminder that this world is reserved for judgement. But Christians don’t tend to live that way. We live as though this world is ok. Do we look at our friends and family who do not know Jesus and does our heartache that they do not know Jesus?
Peter Jensen shared last night that on Q&A the hostility he felt was not directed at him, but directed to God. And yet he lovingly stood his ground on the gospel, proclaimed it in the final minutes… and two people that he knows of got saved. Would Peter Jensen trade away the 55 minutes of mockery and scorn for the eternal lives of two people? No way.
Judgement is looming. 2 Peter 3:9ff – God’s heart aches for the lost. And that should shape our priorities, our lives, and the way that we view this world. In the face of mockery, we will lovingly proclaim this news.
[Another big talk from Derek. Another massive implication to boldly proclaim the gospel, and judgement, to our dying world.]
Evening Session | Peter Jensen: Why Are we here? [1 Corinthians 15:35-58]
[Final session with Peter Jensen. He’s such a warm, loving, and gentle man. I’ll miss these evening sessions!]
We are born to worship. Wherever you go around the world people worship – all sorts of religions. In our country we don’t like the idea that we are worshippers because that means someone is bigger and more important than us. We believe we’re good enough, we’re essentially good, we can rule ourselves.
You can see that we’re all worshippers by watching shoppers at the shopping centres. The worship of money/material possessions. In communist China and Russia there was worship of people bowing down before statues of their mighty leaders.
But we are all dependent creatures – depending on each other – frail creatures, not gods. We are worshippers.
The trick is not do you worship, it’s to make sure you worship correctly. You worship the right God. Worship is not good in of itself – it depends on who you worship and how you worship. You must worship the right God in the right way. Jesus said in John 4 that worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.
So the number one question is: Who is the God we worship?
The God we worship
The God we worship is the God who has revealed himself. We do not have the capacity to find the true God on our own – we must rely on disclosure. In order to know someone we need to have someone disclose themselves to us – reveal their name, reveal their habits, etc.
What do we learn about God in the Bible?
There is one true God. He is three-in-one. He is holy, sovereign, righteous, and good. And many other things – including and summed up in ‘love’.
The One God – this is shocking. Most people through human history thought there were many gods. In the forces and powers around us, in our individual homes, etc. The fact of one God was a gospel – a paradigm shift for many people. And for millions of people who were troubled by ‘spirits’/gods this was good news.
Three-in-one – he is one God, with three persons. Not like us. This is the best language that we can use to describe this. Through all eternity we discover that God is love because the Son loves the Father and the Father loves the Son and the Spirit binds them together in love. He is pulsating with love within himself.
Holy – separate from us, different from us. Not us. The temptation in all religious thinking is to make god in our image. Just a bigger version of us. No – he is a holy God, not human, not angelic, but God – a different person from us.
Sovereign – in charge of all things. It is his will that reigns supreme.
Righteous – he is perfect, through and through.
Good – not evil. In all he does he is good – through and through.
In all of these traits he is thoroughly unlike us. And it is only when we understand this one God we are released – we come to know the who and what we are, and we are now free to work out the why we are here and where we are going.
The King who has a kingdom, who has set us up in his kingdom and under his rule – and we rebelled in mutiny. The human race’s history is one of rebellion. But then he gave promises, righteous promises and covenants with a people – and they find their YES in him (Jesus).
If we want to find this picture of God we can look at Mt Sinai (Exodus 19), or in Isaiah 6. When Isaiah saw the holy God his instant reaction was ‘woe is me for I am lost!’ What an encounter!
The worship we offer
What is worship? Worship is sort of like homage or reverence – what you give to rulers. When you worship you give due to a superior being. At it’s heart is service. You worship by serving, you worship by obedience.
And yet we have used the word worship so frequently it has changed the meaning to church attendance (even singing) – but it’s meaning is obedience and service. It involves your whole being – your heart, mind, and body.
Worship requires responsiveness. Even Christians can have the belief that we are here to manipulate God. And so we use the idea of worship to squeeze blessings out of God. Instead of our religion being ‘Thy will be done’ it becomes ‘My will be done’. Our business is not to force him to do our will – which is corrupt and ignorant – but to do his will – which is righteous, good and for our benefit.
Fundamentally worship is an exercise in faith. The first duty you owe to God is to believe him, trust him. Faith is worship. If we try to get to heaven by good works – which God says is impossible anyway – it is deeply offensive to God.
Worship is also not an outward thing. A common confusion is that it is involved with ritual. God gave Israel ritual – there’s nothing wrong with ritual per se – but it’s wrong when ritual takes the place of heart.
Isaiah 1:10-15 – God gave these people the rituals, but they had replaced their hearts with it. 1 Samuel 15 also says the same thing. Mere ritual will not save you. It will only condemn you.
The voice of worship lifts up and attributes all glory to him and not us – even the grace we say before meals does this.
The worship He taught us
God gave the following for his people:
- Tabernacle/Temple – presence of God (relationship) – like his palace in Jerusalem, which indicated his presence and helped signify relationship with God
- Sacrifices – propitiation (redemption) – they were given for a number of reasons but the heart of which was the Day of Atonement, which were propitiatory sacrifices.
- Priests – Mediation (reconcilation)
- Festivals – Commemoration (remembrance) – remembering things of the past
All of this was stimulated by the word of God – but it had to be inward, it was public but had a personal aspect to it.
The worship He bought us
What we saw in the OT was the blueprints of what was to come – the blueprints point to the reality to come.
- Jesus Christ as temple – the meeting place, the presence of God in our midst; sacrifice – bulls and goats couldn’t do it, only the sacrifice of the God-man Jesus could take away sin; priest – he is the mediator; and redeemer – the one who gives his life to save us, the one who fulfills the worship of the OT. His death is the one we remember as the redeemer.
- Our confidence in approaching God in Christ through the Spirit – what gives us the confidence to approach God? Christ enables us to enter the presence of the living God in order to be embraced by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Such confidence!
One of the reasons why funny things happen in churches is because of a lack of assurance. But the NT encourages us to see what we already have. The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s great permanent sign for all of us. We don’t need another miracle – we have the miracle. When you lack assurance, return to the cross of Christ and remember he died for me – and in his mighty resurrection we are justified.
- Our whole life as worship – Romans 12:1-2 – when we present our bodies 24/7-365 to the living God that is our act of worship. Hebrews 12:28-13:1ff – acceptable worship is to be offered to God – which is listed in chapter 13 – which is our worship book.
- Our fellowship as worship – Colossians 3:1-17 – as the body of Christ we grow together in the likeness of Jesus Christ – including singing and making melody to the heart. The great genius is congregational singing – not musicians on stage drawing attention to themselves.
- Our destiny as worship – 1 Corinthians 15 – the contrast between the dust man and the man of heaven – and just as you were born in the image of dust so you will bear the image of the man of heaven. As we are waiting for that great day to come again and we feel that eternal weight of glory. Not only will we be able to see Jesus, we will be like Jesus, and we will not be able to sin, and we will be working for Jesus. It will be unimaginably brilliant.
So what do we do in the meantime? 1 Corinthians 15:58 – be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
[There’s something about Peter’s simple preaching. He preaches with a simple transparency of a man who earnestly believes the promises of God’s Word, and the history of one who has had that trust tested again and again. When he tells us to persevere… we listen.]