Friday, 7 November 2014

Meditating on God's Word: Genesis

A Framework for Understanding Genesis to Deuteronomy (from Eugene Peterson’s ‘Introduction’ to ‘The Message’)

Genesis - Conception
Exodus - Birth & Infancy
Leviticus - Schooling
Numbers - Adolescence
Deuteronomy - Adulthood

Begin with God.
The first verse of the Bible gives us the best starting-place for our life: "In the beginning, God" (Genesis 1:1). Let us "seek first God's Kingdom and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). "In the beginning, God" - This is what gives our life its true meaning, purpose and direction.
 * Build on God's Word.
We don't speak God's Word to ourselves. God's Word is spoken to us. In His written Word, He has given us a firm foundation for living to His glory (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Learning from the Scriptures, let us build our life on our Saviour. 
 * Be Blessed in God's Spirit. 
Being "in the Spirit" is not just having a "happy" feeling. It's learning to "walk with the Lord in the light of His Word." How are we to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18)? God's Word tells us - "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16).

Beyond the darkness of sin, there's the light of salvation (Genesis 1-3).

This is not only about creation. It's also about sin. There's also the promise of salvation (Genesis 3:15).

Even in the darkness of sin, there's a glimpse of the light that will come. God created us. He has not forgotten us. He has sent His Son for us. He has not left us in our sin. He has delivered us. We have just a hint of this here - "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent" (Genesis 3:15). There is enough of a hint to persuade us that there are better things still to come. We do not get bogged down in sin. God is calling us beyond that. He is calling us on to salvation. He is calling us to come to the Saviour - our Lord Jesus Christ.

* "In the beginning, God" (Genesis 1:1).

Here, we are taken back to eternity, back to the eternal God. There is nothing beyond this. There is nothing beyond Him.

* "God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

He is the Lord of heaven and earth. The mention of heaven and earth in the Bible's opening verse sends our minds on from the beginning to the middle and the end of God's great Story of salvation. At the heart of this wonderful Story, there is Jesus Christ who came from heaven to earth for us. The Story moves on to the marvellous fulifilment of God's plan of salvation. The Lord Jesus will come to take us from earth to heaven to share with Him in the glory of eternal life.

Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." 
This is our only starting-point. We begin with the eternal God. Before there was creation, there is God. There is nothing beyond God. He is the Beginning.

Genesis 1:2 - "darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of face of the waters."
Before the Spirit of God has done his powerful work in our hearts, we remain in darkness. We can do nothing about this. The light does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.

Genesis 1:3 - "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."
This is the mighty work of God. Through His amazing grace, He brings us out of His darkness and into His light.

Genesis 1:4 - "the light was good"
What a wonderful blessing it is when the light of the Lord shines in our hearts.

Genesis 1:5 - "Day and Night"
It's like the difference between Day and Night. What a great change there is in us when the Lord brings us out of our darkness and into His light.

Genesis 1:6 - "a firmament"
Firm - We have a firm foundation upon which to build our faith. There is solid ground upon which we can take our stand. The sold ground is Jesus Christ. He is the firm Foundation.

Genesis 1:7 - "the waters"
In the days of Noah, there was a great flood. All around us there is danger. The flood threatens to overwhelm us. How are we to be saved from drowning? There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour.

Genesis 1:8 - "Heaven"
What a wonderful word this is! What a wonderful Saviour Jesus is. He is the way to heaven (John 14:6).

Genesis 1:9 - "gathered together unto one place"
What a release of the living waters of God's Spirit there is when the Lord's people are gathered together with a real desire to give praise and glory to Him.

Genesis 1:10 - "the gathering together of the waters"
When we are gathered together in the Lord's House, we must pray that the Spirit of God will be at work among us, bringing to us a mighty river of blessing.

Genesis 1:11 - "the fruit tree yielding fruit"
We bear fruit as we build our lives on the Word of the Lord (Psalm 1). There is the fruit of the Spirit in our own lives (Galatians -23). There is the fruit of God at work in the lives upon whom we are able to exert a life-changing influence for God (Psalm 126:5-6).

Genesis 1:12 - "God saw that it was good."
What a good thing it is for the people of God to bear fruit in their lives and in winning others for the Saviour.

Genesis 1:13 - "the third day"
We read these words, and our thoughts move forward to the mighty miracle of Jesus' resurrection from the dead - "on the third day God raised Him from the dead."

Genesis 1:14 - "lights"
We think of the sun and the moon. There is a greater Son - our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. When the sun and the moon are no more, there will be Jesus, the King of creation, the Lord of glory. His reign shall never come to an end. It will be the reign of His everlasting love. When the light of the sun and moon are no longer shining, the light of Christ's love will be shining brightly (Revelation 22:5) - shining "not for the years of time alone, but for eternity."

Genesis 1:15 - "light upon the earth"
As we read these words, we rejoice in this - Jesus is the Light of the world" (John 8:12).

Genesis 1:16 - "the stars"
As we read about the stars, our thoughts turn to the star which led the wise men to Bethlehem. As we think of that star, we are led to Christ. May we join with the wise men in saying, "We have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2).

Genesis 1:17 - "light upon the earth"
Where does light come from? Do we look inside our own minds? No! We look to Him who "came down from heaven to earth - Jesus Christ our Saviour."

Genesis 1:18 - "rule over the day and the night"
Beyond the "rule" of "the two great lights", there is the "rule" of the Lord. He is the King of creation. He is the King of salvation. He is "the King of kings" (Revelation 19:16).

Genesis 1:19 - "the evening and the morning"
The morning is bright with new beginnings. In the evening, we feel weary. In all life's changing circumstances, let us look to the Lord. When we feel strong, let us say, "My strength comes from the Lord." When we feel weak, let us pray, "Lord, I am weak. You are strong. I bring my weakness to You. Give me your strength."

Genesis 1:20 - "Let the waters bring forth abundantly."
What abundance of blessing there is when the living waters of the Holy Spirit are flowing freely among the Lord's people (John 7:37-39; Ezekiel 47:5,9).

Genesis 1:21 - "great whales"
Remember "the great fish" that swallowed Jonah (Jonah 1:17). This was God's way of showing us that "salvation comes from the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). From the story of Jonah's mighty deliverance, we look on to the mighty miracle of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He died, but He did not remain dead. He rose from the dead.

Genesis 1:22 - "God blessed them"
What a great thing it is to be blessed by the Lord. Without His blessing, we have nothing. We must never forget these challenging words of Jesus; "Without Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). What a great challenge they are to our human pride. When we think we can manage on our own, Jesus reminds us, "You are nothing, you have nothing and you can do nothing without My blessing." With His blessing, everything changes. This is the great change which God has brought into our life - "In Christ, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing" (Ephesians 1:3).

Genesis 1:23 - "the evening and the morning"
The repeated pattern of nature - evening, morning, evening, morning ... - speaks to us of God's great faithfulness. Without the sustaining power of God of perfect faithfulness and constant love, our world would return to chaos - "without form and void" (1:2). Whatever changes may take place in our world, let us never forget this: God's mercies are renewed every morning. He is the God of great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).

Genesis 1:24 - The "beast"
Whenever we read, in God's Word, about "the beast", we are reminded that we face constant and determined from Satan, the enemy of our souls. Whenever we feel that Satan is getting the upper hand, let us remind him that Jesus is Lord.

Genesis 1:25 - "every thing that creeps upon the earth"
Creep - Isn't that such a sinister word? Satan creeps around, doing no good. There is One who does nothing but good - our Lord Jesus Christ. He will never be defeated by Satan. Let us rejoice in this: Jesus gives His victory to us.

Genesis 1:26 - "in God's image"
This doesn't sound like a true description of the way we really are! We are sinners. We have lost our way. It's a reminder of what God created us to be. It's His high calling for us. He calls us to be like Him. He calls us to bring glory to Him.

Genesis 1:27 - "male and female"
We belong together. We're not to compete with each other. We are to help each other to love the Lord more and more as we journey through life together.

Genesis 1:28 - "dominion"
We are given dominion. God has dominion. Let us never forget this. We must not think too highly of ourselves. We can never think too highly of the Lord.

Genesis 1:29 - "meat"
We need the strong meat of God's Word if we are to grow strong in the Lord. Let us feed on the Word of God. Let us pray that our hunger will increase. The more we hunger for the Lord, the more fully He will satisfy us.

Genesis 1:30 - "I have given"
The gift of God - Life is God's gift. He is our Creator. Salvation is God's gift. Jesus is our Saviour. The Holy Spirit is God's gift. He has come to live in us. He will take us to live with God - to give glory to God forevermore.

Genesis 1:31 - "everything was very good"
When we look at the world as we know it, it's hard to take this in! We must take our stand upon God's Word. There was a time when "everything was good." There was a time before our sin spoiled everything. There will, again, be a time when everything will be a good. There will be a time when sin will be no more. It will be a time of giving glory to God forevermore.

Genesis 2:1 - "finished"
We read about the finished work of creation and we think of Jesus' words from the Cross, "It is finished." This is the finished work of Christ. He has completed the work that was required by the holy God for sinners to receive forgiveness.

Genesis 2:2 - "He rested"
After creation, there was rest. After crucifixion, there was resurrection. We rest in the risen Lord. We rest in His perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. We rejoice in His triumph over death. We remind Satan that he has been defeated by our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Genesis 2:3 - "holy"
When God blesses us, He makes us holy. He has not given to us the forgiveness of our sins and left us just the way we were before we came in faith to Christ. We come to the Saviour - "Just as I am" - but do not remain the same. God has given us new life - the life of the Holy Spirit. From the moment we receive God's forgiveness, we begin our new journey on the High Way of holiness (Isaiah 35:8). We will often wander away from this High Way, but the Lord keeps on bringing us back. He brings us back to the Cross where we find forgiveness. He brings us back to the risen Lord, who empowers us for walking with God in holy living. When we see that our forgiveness and holiness comes from Jesus Christ, crucified for us and risen for us, we give all the glory to God. This is not our own doing. It is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes (Psalm 118:23).

Genesis 2:4 - "This is the history"
This is His Story. This is God's Story. In this great Story of creation, which leads on to the great Story of salvation, we read about the God who has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. we could not create ourselves. We could not save ourselves. We have been created by God. We have been saved by God. Apart from the work of God, we would have no life. Our life has come from Him. Apart from the work of God, we would have no new life. It is through His mighty power that we have become "a new creation in Christ Jesus" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Apart from the work of God, we would have no hope of eternal life - "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" (1 John 5:11). In ourselves, there is no hope. In the great God of our salvation, we have this glorious hope - "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Genesis 2:5
No rain, no plants of the field, no herbs of the field, no man to till the ground. This is a picture of life without God's blessing. To His faithful servants who look to Him for the blessing, God gives His precious promise: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Genesis 2:6
"watering the whole surface of the ground"
It's water that makes the difference. Without water, everything dries up and dies. There's a better way than the way of spiritual death. God says to us, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters" (Isaiah 55:1). Jesus says to us, "whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14).

Genesis 2:7
"the breath of life"
Everything changes when the Lord breathes His breath of life into us.
* Until God comes to us in power, our situation is desperate - "I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry" (Ezekiel 37:2).

Genesis 2:8
To those who put their trust in Him, the Lord gives His very precious promises - "You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail" (Isaiah 58:11); "They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more" (Jeremiah 31:12). Looking to the Lord as we move towards the great future He has planned for us, we look beyond the Old Testament prophets. We look forward to the glorious fulfilment of God's wonderful purpose of eternal salvation - "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city ... I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away"(Revelation 22:1-2; Revelation 21:2-4).

Genesis 2:9
"Out of the ground the Lord God made every tree to grow"
If we are to make progress in spiritual growth, we must be grounded in Christ - "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). It was the Lord God who made every tree to grow. It is the Lord God who gives us the strength that we need to grow in Christ. Spirtual growth is not our achievement. It is the work of God's grace. "To him be glory both now and forever" (2 Peter 3;18).

Genesis 2:10 One river becomes four rivers.
God's blessing is not to be kept to ourselves.
"Water that was ankle-deep" becomes "water that was knee-deep". Then it becomes "water that was up to the waist". This is just the beginning of God's blessing. He is leading us on to even greater blessing - "now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in-a river that no one could cross" (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
When the Lord's blessing is shared, there is an increase of blessing and greater glory is given to the Lord.

Genesis 2:11
In Matthew 2:11, we read of the "gold" of worship - "they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gold ... ".
In Job 23:10, we read about the "gold" of obedience - "But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." Job's faith in the Lord was sorely tested. At the beginning of Job's story, we learn that "he feared God and shunned evil" (Job 1:1). At the end of the book of Job, we learn that "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first" (Job 42:12).

Genesis 2:12
"aromatic resin and the shoham stone"
"Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" (John 12:3).
This is not only the story of Mary's costly devotion. It's a call to us to be "the pleasing aroma of Christ. The Lord is calling us to "spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere" (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
We will do this when we are trusting in Jesus Christ, the "chosen and precious cornerstone" upon which our faith is built (1 Peter 2:6).
When we come in faith to Jesus Christ, our Saviour, God does a mighty work of grace in us: "As you come to Him, the living Stone - rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Genesis 2:13
"the river that flows through the whole land"
God is not only concerned with our personal blessing. He wants His blessing to reach out to many people in every land: "Fill this land with the Father's glory ... Flow, river, flow ... Flood the nations with grace and mercy" (from the hymn, "Shine, Jesus, Shine" by Graham Kendrick).

Genesis 2:14
"Hiddekel ... Ashshur ... Perat"
The names are unfamiliar to us. Think of the places that are familiar to you. Pray that the river of God's blessing will flow freely in these places, bringing people to know the Saviour and leading them on to "a closer walk with God."

Genesis 2:15
"dressing and keeping the garden"
Coming into the "garden" of God's blessing is just the beginning. We must keep on walking with God in the "garden" of His blessing - "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him" (Colossians 2:6).

Genesis 2:16
"The Lord God commanded the man"
Here, we have God's command. He is concerned about us. He gives us His instructions about how we are to live. He knows what is best for us. Who are we to argue with Him?

Genesis 2:17
"you shall surely die."
God is warning us. You can go your own way - but you will find that it is the way of death: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12).

Genesis 2:18
"a helper suitable for him"
We are not left to go it alone. As well as receiving the Lord's help, we are to help each other. Give help. Receive help. In everything, never forget this: "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:2); "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (Psalm 124:8).

Genesis 2:19
The naming of the animals
What's in a name? Names are important to the Lord. He calls us "by name" (John 10:3). We are known by our own name. How disappointed we are when someone forgets our name. How wonderful it is that the Lord never forgets our name. There's something more wonderful than that. He gives us His Name. We are known by the Name - Jesus. His Name means Saviour. Every time, we speak His Name, we are reminded that we have been saved by Him. His Name speaks to us of the forgiveness of our sins, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the glorious hope of eternal life.

Genesis 2:20
"a helper suitable for him"
Man was sharing God's creation with the animals. Now, God was about to do something very special, something that would make the world a very different place.

Genesis 2:21
"a deep sleep"
Man contributes nothing to this mighty work of God. This is a great lesson we must never forget. We dare not make too much of ourselves. Anything good in us comes from the Lord.

Genesis 2:22
"a woman"
This was a new creation. There was nothing else like her. She was the first woman. There was also continuity between the man and the woman. They belonged together. In man and woman, there is both difference and similarity. The woman is different from the man, yet she is more like him than any of the other creatures.

Genesis 2:23
"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh"
There is a sense of fulfilment here. Until this point, there was something missing. Now,the creation is complete. There is Man and there is Woman.

Genesis 2:24
"they will be one flesh"
This is more than a physical sharing. It'a a sharing in every part of life. It's the special sharing which we call "love".

Genesis 2:25
"naked and unashamed"
This is the original creation. This is before sin came in and spoiled everything.

Genesis 3

From the majestic perfection of God and the privileged responsibility of humanity, we now move to the evil subtlety of Satan. An intruder has sneaked into the privileged place between God, the Creator, and mankind, His creation.

Chapter 2 ends with the absence of shame. Chapter 3 begins with the presence of Satan. The work of Satan, successfully executed, ensures that chapter ends rather differently from chapter 2 - “the Lord God sent the man out of the Garden of Eden” (v. 23).

This was “Paradise Lost”. Was there a way to “Paradise Regained”? There are two answers to this question: “No” and “Yes”. Taking ourselves as the starting-point, the answer is “No”. God will not permit us to take salvation into our own hands (v. 24). Starting with God, the answer is “Yes”. This is the answer of verse 15: Christ (the woman’s descendant will be crucified (the bruising of His heel), but the outcome of this will be the defeat of Satan (the crushing of his head).

Sin, Judgment ... And Salvation (Genesis 3:1-24)

Genesis 3:1   -  "The serpent" (Satan) raises doubts - "Has God said?

Genesis 3:2-3   -  The woman tells Satan what "God has said."

Genesis 3:4   -  Satan contradicts God's Word. Note the progression from questioning God's Word to contradicting His Word.

Genesis 3:5   -  "Your eyes will be opened." You will see everything in a different way. You will know "good" as something you've lost. All you'll have left is "evil." That's not exactly how Satan said it would turn out. What can you expect from someone who contradicts God's Word? - Nothing but lies!

Genesis 3:6   -  This is the beginning of sin. We listen to Satan. We do what he says - instead of listening to God and doing what He says.

Genesis 3:7   -  "Their eyes were opened." They saw what they had become through their disobedience to God's Word.

Genesis 3:8   -  Sin leads to hiding from God.

Genesis 3:9   -  "Where are you?" Why is God looking for them? Is this nothing more than the voice of accusation? There is something more than that. There is the voice of love.

Genesis 3:10   -  The sinner does not hear the voice of God as the voice of love. He hears only the voice of accusation.

Genesis 3:11   -  More questions from God - He makes us think about what we have done.

Genesis 3:12   -  Passing the buck!  

Genesis 3:13   -  More passing the buck!!

Genesis 3:14   -  Here, we have the Word of judgment - but that's not the only Word that God speaks to the sinner.

Genesis 3:15   -   This is the Word of salvation. It's the first prophecy of Satan's defeat. Christ will win the victory over Satan.

Genesis 3:16-19   -  Sin has its consequences!

Genesis 3:20-24   -  In these verses, we read about "the tree of life." Here, we catch a glimpse of Christ who died on the Cross for us. It's through His death that we receive eternal life.

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