Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Repentance and the Book of Life

Today is Yom Kippur, year 5779, on the Jewish calendar, a day of repentance and fasting which culminates the 10 days of introspection and reflection ushered in by Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  Jews believe that there is a Book of Life, and that on Yom Kippur they are judged by their actions done during the year just ended.  And, if their prior actions merit it, their name is written into the Book of Life for another year.  There is a saying, "and on Yom Kippur it is sealed".  You'd better make sure your name is there before Yom Kippur ends, before the book is closed.1  We'll return to this thread of thought momentarily.

Meanwhile, let's return to our Genesis study.

1Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gottena a man with the help of the LORD.” 2And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORDhad regard for Abel and his offering, 5but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted?b And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary toc you, but you must rule over it.”
8Cain spoke to Abel his brother.d And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 
 Genesis 4:1-10 (ESV)

Adam and Eve had many children, according to Genesis 5:4, but it appears Cain and Abel were the first.  When Eve gave birth to Cain, she thought (according to many commentators) that she had birthed the Messianic "seed" who would crush the power of the serpent, of sin.  This is reflected in Cain's name (Hebrew: "Kayin"), which means "my lance" or "my strong weapon".  Interestingly, Abel's name means "vanity" or "insignificant".  It appears Cain was viewed by Eve as the favored son, of the two, if you judge only by the name.
Speaking of names, Eve uses the name Jehovah (Yahweh) for the LORD in verse 2.  If ever a woman had reason to fear the act of childbirth, it was Eve.  She had been foretold it would be painful.  Any woman who has given birth the first time can attest to being tempted by fear as the time of delivery approaches.  Eve, you remember, had no midwife or role model to help her.  Therefore, the LORD Himself helped her.  Whether the Angel of the Lord appeared in the form of pre-incarnate Christ or not is unknown.  But, here, in verse 2, she credits Jehovah with His help, which was surely significant help, at that.  
This is the first time the name Jehovah is applied to God.  In her conversation with the serpent in Genesis 2, Eve used the name Elohim for God.  Barnes, in his commentary, notes:
She also employs a new and near name to designate her maker. In the dialogue with the tempter she had used the word God אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym. But now she adopts Yahweh. In this one word she hides a treasure of comfort. "He is true to his promise. He has not forgotten me. He is with me now again. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He will give me the victory." And who can blame her if she verily expected that this would be the promised deliverer who should bruise the serpent's head? 2

Needless to say, Eve was sorely disappointed.  Cain did not become the promised Deliver, nor even the progenitor of Messiah, who came through the line of Seth.  Eve was the first woman to try to jump ahead of God's perfect timing, but she certainly was not the last.  Nor was she the last mother to grieve over contention between her children.

Why did Cain kill Abel, in one of the darkest biblical stories?3  Why was his offering not acceptable to the Lord?  Let's explore that, now...the first recorded act of worship.

It can be inferred from Scripture that God had previously instructed the two sons of Adam and Eve as to how to make acceptable worship.  God is imminently fair and would not "pull a gotcha" on anyone.  Even after Cain made his unacceptable offering, he was given a Mulligan (that is, a chance to "do over").  Because he harbored evil in his heart, however, Cain rejected that second chance.  God stated that evil was "crouching at the door" of Cain's heart, waiting to have him.  Sadly, Cain gave in to that evil, instead of repenting and fighting that evil through the power of Jehovah God, as evidenced by his cold-blooded, premeditated murder of his brother.

God had previously prescribed that the sacrifice be a blood sacrifice.  This is why Abel's burnt offering of one of his flock was acceptable to God, while Cain's offering of plant-life was not.  There is no worship, no sacrificial offering apart from blood.  Even today, while we no longer offer burnt offerings or even blood offerings, Christians come to worship God under the scrim of the holy, redemptive blood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself declared that He is "the way, the truth, the life" - - and that "no man comes unto the Father except through me"  (John 14:6).

Cain was merely the first, but in the intervening millennia people have continued to construct their own forms of repentance, their own ways of redemption, their own false ways of worship, their own views of the Book of Life.  I think with sorrow today, of all the observant Jews around the world who are fasting and praying to "earn" a spot for their name in this very real book, now seated in Heaven with God.  How futile their own misguided efforts, even though sincerely offered!  (For the sake of time, I won't delve more deeply into the Book of Life in this post.  See Source #4 below to learn more.)

Let me tell you what happened on Yom Kippur, in the days when Temple sacrifices were still ongoing.  The name "Yom Kippur" comes from Leviticus 16, where God commands this holy convocation.  The name means Day of Atonement.  On this most holy day, the high priest would select a goat (the "scapegoat") and, in a special ceremony, place his hands on the goat's head, thereby transferring all the collective sins of the people of Israel onto this one animal.  Then, the goat would be sent outside the community's boundaries, outside the "city walls", you might say, carrying the sins of the people into the wilderness, never again to be seen.  Through this ceremony, God covered the sins of His repentant people. (Remember, "atonement" means "covering".)  The acceptable sacrifice of Abel, all the OT animal sacrifices, foreshadow the ultimate blood sacrifice made for believers by the one and only Savior.

In the marvelous New Testament book of Hebrews, the gifted writer draws parallels between Yom Kippur and the death of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:6-28 and 13:11-13).   As the "scapegoat" bore the sins of the people, so did Christ.  As the scapegoat was "sent outside the camp", so was Christ crucified outside the city walls.  "He bore our sins in His body on the tree...." (Isaiah 53:5-6, 1 Peter 2:24), and in so doing, He made unnecessary forever the Old Testament sacrificial system.

He IS our scapegoat.  
Repentance and forgiveness of sins are only possible through Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach, whose one sacrifice is sufficient to not only cover the sins of those who believe in Him, but to render believers thoroughly "justified" - - fully restored, just as if we had never sinned.  What glory!  What miraculous grace!

As Christians, we should always be mindfully repentant of the sins we commit, in the spirit of Yom Kippur, and eternally grateful for our Savior, our merciful God, who has taken all our sins forever away.





Friday, September 14, 2018

The Tree of Life

There is a school of thought that says any illness of the body can be healed with what God has provided in the earth.  In other words, God has given us everything we need to foster and maintain our health.  Proper nutrition, for example, is key to creating and maintaining excellent health.  When something begins to go awry in the body, search for a food or a mineral to heal it.
To a certain extent, I agree with that philosophy although, if it were to be perfectly practiced, we could all live in these physical bodies forever, right?

It appears from Scripture, however, that a marvelous example of this existed in the Garden of Eden.  Today's text is Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV).

22Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In order to better understand these verses, we need to remind ourselves that God had told Adam and Eve that they were permitted to eat of all the trees of the Garden, except for the fateful Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This would include the Tree of Life.

15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eatd of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV)

My earlier memories of sermons/teaching on Genesis 2 and 3 tell me that Adam and Eve never ate of the Tree of Life.  However, this would not seem to be the case, after careful examination of these verses.  Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of all the plants and trees in the Garden, but for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Some commentators have postulated that they did indeed eat from the Tree of Life and that this nourishment is what gave them such excellent health that they could have lived forever in that perfect, sinless state.  What an amazing, efficacious tree it must be!  (This legendary tree still exists today, but we'll get to that later.)

Who is speaking in Genesis 3:22?  The Triune God are speaking with each other, but it appears that the second Person of the Trinity is speaking, that being Jesus Christ.  Jesus existed as a Person of the Trinity as long as God has been God, which is forever.  So has the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, existed.  You cannot have "God" without having all three Persons, eternally existing, no beginning and no end.
So, likely Jesus is speaking, because anytime God reveals Himself to men on earth, it is through the Person of Jesus Christ, whether in His pre-incarnate state or during His time in a human body on earth (during His earthly ministry) or afterwards when He appeared to John on Patmos, for example.

Now, it appears that, for all of the wonders of Eden, and despite Man's sinless state, Adam and Eve did not know the full extent of good and evil until they ate from the one forbidden tree.  All they knew was that they were to obey God's command to avoid that tree.  After they ate, sin and death entered into them and the separation from God began.

Prior to this act, Adam and Eve lived in Heaven on Earth.  God had made His dwelling place with Man, on Earth.  Eden was "heaven come down".  God, in the person of pre-incarnate Christ, frequently spent time with Adam and Eve in that place.

The prohibition concerning the Tree of Life was for some very good reasons.
1.  Had they continued to eat of that fruit, they would have continued forever in their sinful state, unredeemed, separated from God.  Yes, their bodies and souls would have continued to live forever, but they also would have been forever condemned.
2.  Continuing to eat from the Tree of Life would have been a way contrary to God's way of redemption.  Man has long wanted to experience redemption, but only on his own terms.  Whether through making idols of his own imagining, doing good works to obtain holiness, self-abasement or physical injury in the name of religion (walking across hot coals, etc.) - - the list could go on. 

“He who seeks for righteousness and life by his own doings, runs upon the flaming sword of justice; and whilst endeavoring to insure his own salvation, he is pulling ruin upon himself.”
John Gill

Accordingly, because the Tree of Life had been useful to Adam for sustaining physical life prior to the Fall, it would have naturally occurred to him to look to the Tree to sustain his physical life after.
However, . . .
God's way was different.  God decreed that His way to redemption would be the only way, and in mercy, therefore, God prevented Adam from seeking redemption through any created (even a previously acceptable) means.  The Fall changed everything.  To keep Adam and Eve from committing that evil, He mercifully blocked the way to the Tree and even to the entire Garden itself.  The Garden of Eden could no longer be what it had formerly been - - a place for man and God to commune face-to-face.

Where is the Garden of Eden now, you may ask?  Where is the Tree of Life now?  Does it yet exist?

Consider for a moment that Jesus Christ was crucified on a tree, a cross made of wooden beams.  This was no accident or mere coincidence.  He is our Tree of Life, God's only way of redemption and salvation, provided to mankind (John 14:6).  So, spiritually, HE is our Tree of Life.  However, the Tree of Life itself is mentioned other places in scripture.

We find it mentioned again in the Book of Revelation.  It seems that, when Eden became closed to mankind, God removed that place to Heaven, for it is there we again find the Tree of Life.

7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
Revelation 2:7 (ESV)

14Blessed are those who wash their robes,c so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.
Revelation 22:14 (ESV)

Those who have entered into eternal Life through Jesus Christ, God's only "Way, Truth and Life" (John 14:6), have had their sins forever crucified on the cross with Jesus, crucified on that "tree" (Galatians 2:20).  Putting our faith in Jesus Christ as our only hope of salvation is the act of "washing our robes".  Only He can impart grace, the eternal banishment of sin, complete imputation of God's righteousness.  As the apostles Peter and John said, in the days of the early Church, as they were being examined by the Sanhedrin - - - 

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved. 
Acts 4:12 (NET)

And, as such, as His Beloved, we will see that primeval Tree of Life again, on that day when we see our Savior face-to-face, in Heaven.  

Well, I know we have spent a lot of time in the first three chapters of Genesis (19 posts!).  I've become more and more convinced of the power and necessity of this book.  It is a book on which hinges the remainder of the Bible.  Discredit and disregard this book, and you have gutted the rest of God's holy Word.  Thanks for taking this journey through Genesis with me.  Next post: we begin chapter 4.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Choosing the Right Clothes

Tootling around online this morning while drinking coffee and trying to wake up, I noticed that certain cretins out in the anonymous world of www. were #momshaming Tori Spelling for the way her kids look.  Girl had posted an Instagram pic of them on their first day of school - - a rite literally thousands of other moms did over the past few weeks.  These are beautiful children, wearing school clothes, and yet the buzzards of www. began to pick Tori apart.....

We are pretty much obsessed with clothes and physical appearance, aren't we?  While admitting we can certainly go overboard with that, clothes do say a lot about a person.  I've heard it said that, in the job world, you ought to dress for the next position you desire.  So, for example, if you are a mid-level manager, you should dress like a manager, in anticipation of that promotion coming to pass.  

Let's take a look at the role clothing plays in the life of God's children.  Our text for today is Genesis 3:21. 

The LORD God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Nakedness, even from the beginning, symbolized incompleteness.  
Who first clothed mankind in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve did (Genesis 3:7), when they fashioned (pardon the pun) fig leaves together in a misguided attempt to hide their nakedness.  The first "successful" clothing of mankind, however, was done by God Himself, when He killed an animal, skinned it and made clothes for Adam and Eve to wear.   This is the first animal killing seen in Scripture, and blood was shed for the express purpose of atoning for (covering) man's nakedness, symbolic of his newly sinful, fallen state of being.  The animal's sacrifice was vicarious, a big theological word meaning "substitutionary".  Thus, the first animal slain was a sacrifice, was the launching point for the Old Testament sacrificial system and prefigured that once-for-all sacrifice which would take place millennia in the future, the everlasting, all-justifying, totally-redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Now, let's skip forward through the centuries to look more deeply at how God clothes His own.

Paul uses the analogy of clothes often to describe the Christian life, or what I call "the resplendent walk".  He uses this analogy briefly in 2 Cor. 5, but I want to also show you other places he talks about "being dressed right". Before we do that, though, look at what Isaiah said in 61:10 ---
I greatly rejoice in the LORD, I exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (HCSB)

This is an interesting verse.  Some theologians want to distinguish between these two "spiritual garments" - - - the garment of salvation being one, the robe of righteousness being another.  It is an interesting distinction.  The theological point made is that God gives us salvation through Jesus Christ, and this is symbolized by the salvation garment.  But, the robe of righteousness is an additional piece that He dresses us in.
Now, to Paul:

26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27 (NET)

Paul emphasizes here, as he does elsewhere, that salvation comes by faith, not by good works.  By accepting Christ, through faith, we become sons of God.  This act has "clothed us with Christ". Beyond that transformational decision, we are also commanded by Paul to adorn ourselves with the characteristics of Jesus, to imitate Him in our daily lives.  This does not secure our salvation; it is a manifestation of what has already been done in our hearts.  In this way, we "reflect" Christ. 
14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.  
Romans 13:14 (NET)

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
Colossians 3:12 (NET)

So, our righteousness comes from God the Father, through Christ the Son.  That is indisputable. However, we are responsible for making spiritually healthy choices as we live the Christian life.  This is how we "clothe ourselves".  It is a conscious act on our part, analogous to "taking up one's cross daily and following Jesus" (Matt. 16:24).  Now, look at the following passage:

Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord— for we live by faith, not by sight. Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him.10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.
2 Cor. 5:6-10 (NET)

Notice the phrase "make it our ambition to please Him". This is the conscious act of "putting on Christ" daily.  Paul goes on to say that we will have to give an account of all that the Lord Jesus has blessed us with in this life, in this body.  Our salvation is secure.  Our eternal destiny is fixed.  "There is therefore now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).  But, and I've blogged about this in previous posts - - - I'll try to find which one and post it under "Sources:" - - - all of us Believers will be given rewards at this "judgment" seat...or not.  Some of us may stand there nearly naked, clothed only in our salvation garment!  About 3 years ago, in our study of 1 Corinthians, we examined 1 Cor. 3:12-13 and saw that our actions after salvation will be tested by fire, and that some of them will be "burned up" like wood or hay or kindling.  Not cool!

Well, I want to be dressed right on that great judgment day, clad not only in my salvation garment, but also adorned with the beautiful jewelry of Christ-likeness.  I'm dressing for the next position I desire!

Good morning, Father.  Thank you for securing my salvation and clothing me in salvation.  I also realize that my righteousness comes from Your Holy Spirit living within me, bestowed on me through Your mercy.  In light of that truth, and because of how grateful I am for it, I choose to imitate my Savior.  Well, at least I try to most of the time, because I want to please You.  I confess I'm nowhere near 100% in that effort.  Help me be more like Him as I look more like Him.  In Jesus' name I pray, amen.


Resplendent Daughter blog: Honor's Day;postID=1129579313904961451;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=44;src=postname

Matthew Harmon's post at

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Eve, Mother of All the Living

This weekend I was privileged to spend some quality time with my older son and his girlfriend, just talking and enjoying each other's company.  He likes to debate with me on both theological and political topics.  Coincidentally, he brought up the topic of evolution on this occasion.  I thought that odd, since here in the blog, I'm in Genesis.  A key point I made was this:  if Genesis is discredited as mere allegory or fanciful tale, then the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially His death, burial and glorious resurrection, are at risk for similar treatment.  As case in point, I shared with Son1 that the first appearance of, the first allusion to, the gospel is found in Genesis 3:15 (see previous post).

This morning, we are going to look at the immediate aftermath of the Fall and will specifically focus on one word.  The text is Genesis 3:16-20, particularly verse 20.

The effects of sin began to be immediately apparent.  The word "sin" is synonymous with "death".  As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they became spiritually dead in the bondage of sin.  Also, their bodies began to die physically.  It was not the "forbidden fruit" that brought death; there was nothing intrinsically harmful in that appealing food.  It was the disobedience, the lack of faith in God's spoken word to them, which separated them from God.

The first effect of the sin curse mentioned by God pertained to Eve, since she was the first to sin (vs. 16).  It concerned the act of childbirth, which was not originally meant to be a painful experience apparently.

He said to the woman: I will intensify your labor pains; you will bear children in anguish. Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you. 
Genesis 3:16 (HCSB)

This is such an interesting verse.  The first part is not mysterious at all, at least not to any woman who has given birth.  Further, God here established the order of godly marriage, giving the husband the dominion, the leadership, of the home. The second part of the verse, though, concerning "your desire will be for your husband" . . . various translations either translate "desire" to be either sexual desire, or a general desire for a husband, or a desire to control one's husband.  The actual Hebrew תְּשׁ֣וּקָתֵ֔ךְ  (tə-šū-qā-ṯêḵ), only appears once in Scripture.1  That tells me it is a complex concept of desire, and thus the variances in translations.

Then, He turned to Adam and pronounced a curse over the whole earth, as a result of his disobedience.  This is why the entire creation is "groaning", as described in Romans 8:18-22.2  Genesis 3:19 highlights the fact that man was created by God, Who assimilated and transformed elements found in the newly-created and pristine Earth to form our physical bodies.  Mankind was not originally intended to die physically; but, since that inevitable conclusion is the result of The Fall, our bodies after physical death return to the "dust" from which they were formed.

And now, perhaps the most fascinating verse in this passage, verse 20.

Critics of Genesis claim the impossibility of one couple, The First Couple, producing enough offspring to populate the Earth.  I blogged about this a few weeks ago, earlier in this Genesis study, and am not going to "plow the row over" (as my mother would say) here.  You can find the link3 in Sources, below.

But, I want you to notice one word particularly in verse 20, and that is the word "all":

The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.
Genesis 3:20 (NET)

The "Mother of ALL the Living".... not the mother of some, or not some "representative, allegorical mother", but the "Mother of ALL Living".  Do you think it is an accident the word "all" was used here?  I do not.  There are no "accidents" in the Word of God.  Every word is divinely inspired and supernaturally appointed.  The Hebrew word here, כָּל־ ,is clear.  It is variously translated, "the whole", "every" and "all".  The name, Eve, means in Hebrew "Life".  

Here's how beautiful the redemptive plan of our all-wise God is:
Eve received her name, Life, before The Fall.  Yet, God used the one who first caused The Fall to also be the vessel from whom Life, even in the generations of her descendants, Life Everlasting, the Messiah, would spring.  Matthew Henry comments, "Adam bears the name of the dying body, Eve of the living soul."4