Welcome to Day 2199 of Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.
This is Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom
What Does God Want – God Still Wanted A Family – Daily Wisdom
Putnam Church Message – 01/29/2023
What Does God Want? – God Still Wanted A Family
Last week, we began a new series, which should take us close to Easter in our messages. The overall theme of this series is to answer the question: What does God want? The answer we discovered was that God wants you along with every person who will ever live. In other words, God wanted a family. God wants co-workers. God wants you to know who you are/ and why your life has value to him. /He loves you and desires that you also love Him.
In last week’s message, I made the point that God equipped people to image
Him on earth. He did that by sharing his attributes (his qualities and abilities) with all humans. Now, both the supernatural beings in the unseen realm (angels) and humans are to be an imager of God. As wonderful as that was (and is), it’s where things get interesting—and scary. One of God’s qualities is freedom—what we often call free will. Because humans have free choice,/ it resulted in three major rebellions in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. So, if you’ve ever wondered why there’s evil in the world, here’s the Bible’s answer. We have much to cover today, so hold on to your hats. (Grab Hat)
Rebellion #1 – Stand Up #1
God knew what it meant when he decided to share his attributes with his children. God knows everything, so he understood clearly what would happen. God had made the same decision earlier with the heavenly family he had created. They have abilities like intelligence and freedom. They got those gifts from their Creator.
Sooner or later, God knew that his gifts would be misused or abused. /He knew full well that, /though his children (in the spiritual world and on earth) were like him,/ they were not him. They were less than him. They were imperfect, whereas He is perfect. So, at some point, one (or more) of his children would either make a horrible mistake or act in thoughtless self-interest, rebelling against something God wanted to be done (or not done).
That’s precisely what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve rebelled. They violated God’s command not to eat from one of the trees in the garden. As a result, they sinned and lost eternal life in God’s presence. Every human born after that was born outside Eden, estranged from God. The apostle Paul summed it up well: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
An even earlier rebellion brought on the Eden tragedy. One of God’s supernatural children chose to dishonor God’s decision to have a human family by tempting Eve, hoping God would destroy her and Adam. (Bulletin) Listen as I read Genesis 3:1-7. The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.
The serpent came to Eve as a beautiful and wise angelic creature. The Hebrew word is Na-has –translated as the serpent in English, but one meaning is “one to seek and give omens and wisdom.” The Bible refers to the serpent as Satan and the Devil elsewhere. The word Satan, or ‘The Satan,’ is a title or a role that means the accuser. (think prosecutor in a criminal trial) – This is the role The Satan played in the Book of Job. By the 2nd temple timeframe, before God comes to earth as the incarnate Christ, most writings interchange the word Satan, Devil, or the evil one as the same entity. Regardless, He succeeded in getting Eve to sin but failed to eliminate humanity permanently. As for the evil one, this was ‘strike one’ in his eventual downfall.
There are some profound truths here, the first of which answers a question everyone asks at some point in life: Why is evil in the world? Evil exists in the world because God decided he wanted to create beings like himself. Of course, I don’t mean that God has an evil side. Instead, God rejected the idea of creating humans as robots or pre-programmed computers made of flesh.
That last point is essential. Our likeness to God had to be authentic. Without the genuine freedom to make objective decisions, we would not be like God. God is no robot, and we were made to be like him, to be an imager of Him. Without genuine free will, we cannot authentically love God or obey God. If decisions are pre-programmed, they aren’t decisions. For decisions like love and obedience to be authentic, they must be made against a truly possible alternative. The result is that evil exists because people abuse God’s wonderful gift of freedom and use it for self-gratification, revenge, and the mirage of autonomy. This abuse for humans began in Eden.
But God was not taken by surprise. He had anticipated evil. He foresaw what would happen and planned accordingly. God did not destroy his human children for their rebellion. Instead, he would forgive and create a means to redeem them. The Bible makes it clear that God saw what was coming and had a plan of forgiveness and salvation in place before the rebellion even happened. Ephesians 1:4, 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
The plan of salvation would ultimately require God to become a man. We’ll get to that part of the story in two weeks. But long before that pivotal event, there was a price to pay for what happened in Eden. God banished Adam and Eve (and, therefore, their descendants) from his presence. Eden was no more. Instead of eternal life with God, their father, humanity would now look forward to death. Romans 5:12, When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. That’s what separation from the source of life— God—ultimately costs.
In effect, God kicked his children out of his house. But that was a better outcome than the evil one had hoped for—human destruction. God wasn’t giving up on his plan to have a human family, but rebellion had a cost. God also punished Satan. Having brought death into God’s world, he became lord of the realm of the dead, which would later be known as hell.
No Backup Plan
You might wonder at this point why God didn’t just scrap the whole plan for having a human family. After all, God allowed free will, knowing it would lead to sin and thousands of years of human misery in the form of violence, neglect, selfishness, and a host of other awful things humans are capable of inflicting on one another. Perhaps your suffering, /or the suffering you see all around you,/ might even make you wish God had just destroyed everything.
Believe it or not, God understands that feeling. He sees the evils you see / and infinitely more. None of it is the way God wanted things. But, you say, he’s God —can’t he just overrule all of it? It’s not that simple. Think about it. God can only eliminate evil in our world if he eliminates all who do evil. In other words, God can only end evil if he wipes out all of us. Everyone sins (Rom 3:10-12), and, like the Bible says, “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Rom 3:23). So sure, God could do that. But he doesn’t. He loves His human too much for that to be an option.
All this boils down to an amazing truth: While God knew what making us like Him would lead to, the result was preferable to not having a human family at all. God sees the sin and misery in our world and knows its cause. It hurts him. God is so consumed with love for his human children that he will not turn away from his original ambition. There’s no plan B. There is only Plan A. Despite foreseeing the rebellion that would come in Eden and all the failures and sins that would follow—including our own—God still longs for a human family.
What happened in Eden was only the beginning of the story. God had kicked Adam and Eve out of his house (Gen 3:22-24). He cursed the serpent (Gen 3:14-15) and cast him away from his presence (Isa 14:12-15; Ezek 28:16). The message was forceful and simple: rebellion would be punished. You’d think everyone would get the message. Not so. Things got even worse.
Rebellion #2 – Stand up #2
You may have heard somewhere along the way that the Bible teaches the world has so much evil in it because of humanity’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. But, unfortunately, that’s only partially true. After the tragedy of Eden, two more episodes plunged humanity further into the depths of depravity and chaos.
The first of these is described in Genesis 6:1-4, arguably one of the strangest incidents in the Bible. We should not shy away from the problematic passages in God’s Word but make sure we consider the whole counsel of God.
Let me read this passage. 1 Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. 2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women[a] and took any they wanted as their wives. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with[b] humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”
4 In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times. (These are thought to be where the concepts for Greek and Roman gods originated.)
I have studied this in-depth and taken a couple of seminary courses to tie this passage into other parts of the story we will cover in this series. The story is about how some of God’s supernatural children (the “sons of God” – the same Hebrew words as the passage in Job we looked at last week translated angel) wanted to imitate God by producing their own human children to image themselves. For that purpose, they decided to use human women (some translations call them, the “daughters of humans”). In their minds, this made them rivals to God, their own heavenly father. Rather than be happy with God’s desire to have humans become family members, they decided to be overlords of their own humans. That wasn’t what God had in mind. God wanted a family, not enslaved people.
2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 6 tell us the result of the actions of the angels who sinned. Let me read both: 4 For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell,[a] in gloomy pits of darkness,[b] where they are being held until the day of judgment. 5 And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. Jude 6. And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. But the deed was done, and it had disastrous consequences. Look at the two verses that follow the Bible’s recounting of this rebellion in Genesis 6:5-6:
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Think about that. Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. God regretted he had made humanity; the thought grieved him.
This is the very definition of depravity and the sorrow it brings. The first supernatural rebellion led to humanity losing everlasting life with God (which is bad enough). This rebellion took the effects of sin to another level, accelerating human self-destruction. God felt deep remorse over the way things had turned out. Humanity had been permanently damaged.
The Bible tells us that God could see no other solution but to send the flood to wipe out humanity (Gen 6:17). It’s essential to notice that the flood story never says God was angry. It only says He was heart-stricken over what was going on. God had decided to give humans freedom. He couldn’t take it away since doing so would mean they would no longer be like him—they’d no longer be genuinely human. The only choice was to start over and put an end to what the rebellious sons of God had caused. God still wanted a human family. Genesis 6:9 Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God. At least there was one. God would take it. He would move ahead with his plan to have a human family.
God told Noah to build an ark (a large ship) so that he, his family, and multitudes of animals would survive. But God still held out hope that, as deep as human depravity had become, his human children could be with him. So, mercifully, he gave Noah 120 years to prepare for the flood (Gen 6:3) and told people what would happen so they could turn from their depravity and be forgiven.
In the end, people wouldn’t listen. They refused God’s gracious warning. Once again, God’s children turned their backs on him, as they were free to do. Is it any wonder God’s heart was so broken?/ At least there was Noah and his family./ After the flood, God repeated the original commands he had given Adam and Eve (“Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth”; Gen 9:1). God was starting over with them. He made a covenant with Noah that extended to all humankind (Gen 9:8-17). A covenant is a promise or pledge, like a legal contract. This covenant was one-sided; it was all about God’s promise to never destroy humanity (Gen 9:11). Amazingly, God still wanted a human family.
It’s not as amazing/ but it’s still pretty incredible/The abuse of God’s goodness would continue. A third rebellion followed the flood. This one would frame the rest of the biblical story, and show, again, God’s unconquerable patience and love.
Rebellion #3 – Stand Up #3
Like the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s flood, you may have heard of the Tower of Babel. If not, that’s okay, because even most church-goers don’t realize what really happened there.
The story of the Tower of Babel is found in Gen 11:1-9. (read on your own.) After the flood, God wanted Noah’s descendants to multiply and spread out over the earth. Like Adam and Eve, they were to be God’s co-workers to maintain creation. But, instead of doing that, they gathered at a place called Babel and built a tower to their own glory (Gen 11:1-4).
That’s the familiar version of the story, but its real significance is found in two unfamiliar verses in another biblical book. Deuteronomy 32:8-9
When the Most High assigned lands to the nations,
when he divided up the human race,
he established the boundaries of the peoples
according to the number in his heavenly court.[a](sons of God 70 nations)
9 “For the people of Israel belong to the Lord;
Jacob is his special possession.
These two verses tell us that one of the judgments at the Tower of Babel was the division of humankind. Until this point in the story, God dealt with humanity as a collective whole. That changed at Babel. Human beings would be segregated by language and geography.
Even worse, God divorced himself from humanity. Fed up with human defiance of his will, God assigned the nations of the earth to other members of his supernatural family—the sons of God. This was a different group than those who transgressed before the flood. God couldn’t kick humanity out of his house. He had done that already back in Eden. He had promised not to destroy humanity after the flood (Genesis 9:11) so that disaster would not be repeated. So what else could he do? He essentially said, “Enough! If you don’t want me to be your God, I’ll assign you to some of my heavenly assistants.”
The fallout of this judgment took many forms. We aren’t told how long it took, but the Bible tells us that the supernatural sons of God assigned over the nations did a lousy job. They became so corrupt that God had to judge them, too. He would one day take away their immortality and take back the nations. (Pentecost) Let me read Psalm 82: A Psalm of Asaph.
(1Asaph) God presides over heaven’s court;
he pronounces judgment on the heavenly beings: (among the “gods”)
2 (God) “How long will you hand down unjust decisions
by favoring the wicked?
3 “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
4 Rescue the poor and helpless;
deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
5 But these oppressors know nothing;
they are so ignorant!
They wander about in darkness,
while the whole world is shaken to the core.
6 I say, ‘You are gods;
you are all children of the Most High.
7 But you will die like mere mortals
and fall like every other ruler.’”
8 (Asaph) Rise up, O God, and judge the earth,
for all the nations belong to you.
For our purposes here, God’s frustration left him childless regarding having a human family. He’d had it. You might say He was ready to give up. Well… not quite.
God’s Persistent Love
Guess what happened right after the Tower of Babel catastrophe In Genesis 12? God appeared to Abraham (originally called Abram), an older man married to a woman (Sarah) who was beyond the age where she could have children. God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised the older man and his wife they would have a son. God would do a miracle. Their son would be the beginning of a new family for God on earth (Gen 12:1-9;15:1-6;18:1-15).
Having allotted humanity to the oversight of members of his heavenly host, God wanted to begin anew with a single family of his own with Abraham. Abraham believed in God’s promises (Gen 15:6). And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. He didn’t have to earn God’s interest or favor. It was God who had chosen Abraham to start over. The relationship between God and Abraham started with God. Abraham believed.
Afterward, the covenant relationship that began with God’s call / and Abraham’s faith / was commemorated with the physical sign of circumcision (Gen 17:1-14; Rom 4:1-12). Abraham’s entire family followed his example (Gen 17:23). Bearing this sign marked Abraham’s descendants as the people God wanted as his family. Circumcision would also be a sign to the women of Abraham’s lineage. Since they were to marry only within the extended tribe, they would be reminded of how their people had been supernaturally created from Abraham and Sarah when they decided to have their own children.
It’s important to realize that God’s covenant with Abraham was based on belief in God’s promises—faith. God didn’t approach Abraham because he’d found a man who was an excellent rule-keeper. Salvation is not based on behavior. We cannot earn our salvation. God would be in our debt because of our performance if that were the case. He’d owe us something in response to our achievement. Think of how absurd that sounds. Instead, Abraham and his descendants showed their belief in God’s promises by observing the covenant sign of circumcision. It was an outward way to show where their loyalty was. Similar to baptism for us.
The apostle Paul used Abraham as an example of believing loyalty (Rom 4:1-12). Abraham believed and was accepted by God before he obeyed any rules. The rules were about showing he believed. They did not replace belief. Belief (faith) was the one essential thing. Loyalty to that belief—to that God —is something we’ll talk about later. Today, we call it discipleship. Belief and loyalty are two distinct things. They are related but not interchangeable. The same is true of salvation and discipleship.
Promising Abraham a son (and through him, the start of a new family that would grow into a great nation) was God’s second covenant after the disaster of Eden. The first had been with Noah. Both were designed to preserve his dream of having a human family. But these covenants weren’t just about God not giving up. They were also about extending the offer of everlasting life to all people. God had not given up on humanity. He couldn’t stop loving people. God still wanted a human family.
God kept his promise to Abraham. He and Sarah did indeed have a son (Isaac; Gen 17:19-21; 21:1-7). Abraham’s extended family would become known as “Israel,” the name most frequently used in the Old Testament for God’s human family (Gen 32:28; Deut 32:9; Isa 44:1). But what about the people from the other nations, the ones God had assigned to the sons of God after the Tower of Babel rebellion? They are called “Gentiles” in the Bible, a short term that means “not from Israel.” And despite what happened at Babel, God did not forget about those people.
Not only would God start over yet again with a new people (Israel), but he told Abraham that his descendants would someday be a blessing to the other nations God had forsaken in Genesis 12:3! 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.” Many years later, Jesus, from the family of Abraham, would be the descendant who would bring all the world’s nations back to God (Gal 3:16-18, 26-29). Before Jesus arrived, Gentiles could join God’s family by rejecting all other gods, believing in Him, and taking the sign of God’s covenant.
A lot of time passed between the time of Abraham and Jesus. Israel’s own history as “the Lord’s portion” (Deut 32:9) wasn’t a pretty one. They were God’s people, but sadly, perhaps predictably, their loyalty failed. The darkest hour was yet to come.
We have covered a lot of information today, but tying the three rebellions together was needed to bring us to the point where God established his covenant with a single family group, Israel. Next week, we will explore the next chapter in our story of “What does God want?” We will see that, “God Was Betrayed by His Family” Please read Genesis 12:3, Genesis 15:3, & 17:1-8 in preparation for next week.