For that past two weeks we have been doing a series on the Story of the Bible. It has been a super fun series for me because I get to talk about something I love, which is the Old Testament (OT).
The first week we looked at the world God created. A world that is majestic, magnificent, glorious, absolutely beautiful. All of this flows from a God who is majestic, magnificent, glorious, and absolutely beautiful. As I write these words today it sounds like a fairy tale compared to the brokenness I see in the world in front of me daily.
The past few weeks have been difficult. Some of the most difficult in the 3 years I have been doing church planting. As difficult as it has been I get reminders from this gracious God my life is still not as bad as it could be. One of the ladies in our church who is absolutely wonderful is a social worker. Just recently she asked to sit down for coffee, because she was having a really hard time at work. She works in one of the roughest hospitals in our area. Women regularly come in who have been abused or simply beat up by life. She said she needed to talk because it was the hardest case she had ever seen. An elderly woman came in who had been ridiculously malnourished and abused by her boyfriend. This young lady has told me she has a hard time seeing how God cares for women. Who could blame her?
I write all this not to reinforce in people a lack of faith or tell them we have a God who does not care. No, I write them to remind us all that this world is broken. It is not what is described in Genesis 1-2. Something happened! What the Bible affirms and Christians affirm is SIN has entered the world. Now the world is broken.
Some of you who read this might be familiar with the term “generational or cyclical poverty”. According to scholars like Rudy Payne, there are cycles and behaviors of poverty that can carry from one generation to the next because this is all they know. As Christians we believe the Bible affirms “generational or cyclical sin” in the world we live. Genesis 6.5 tells us, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts his heart was only evil continually.” This assessment or diagnosis by God on humanity is “generations” after our first parents sinned. The children who come after our first parents (Adam and Eve) continue in the sin.
If you think this is only a OT assessment of humanity look at what Paul has to say in Romans 5.12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We live in a world where no one can claim perfection—there is NO ONE without sin. If you have heard statements like, “nobody’s perfect”, and agreed with it, then you agree with the assessment of the human condition in the Bible.
Even in the midst of this assessment by God there is hope for humanity. And the beautiful thing is God is the One who provides the hope. What God does is He begins forming a unique people among humanity. For instance, after God looks at the world in Genesis 6.5 and declares everyone “wicked” He then says this, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen 6.8). In the midst of all the wickedness, evil, and brokenness God sees one man stand out among the rest. I spoke about this on Sunday, but the temptation for us in our moralistic worldviews is to see this as Noah earning “favor” in the eyes of the LORD. In the NT we see the writer of Hebrews say, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. By FAITH Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent faith constructed an ark for the saving of his household...and became an heir of the righteous that comes by faith” (Heb 11.6). God is forming a new humanity by FAITH. It is by FAITH that Noah found favor with God. Faith PLEASES God.
What is faith? It's a declaration that we TRUST God. It is a declaration that we BELIEVE God. It is a heartfelt expression. All loving relationships require trust. If we cannot trust the person we say we love, then we don’t love them. We don’t say we love God, and not trust Him. That was the problem that happened with our first parents, they trusted themselves more than they trusted God. When you trust yourself more than anyone, then you are not fully invested in that relationship.
Noah is not the only one whom God begins forming this “family of faith”. In Genesis 12.1-3 God takes initiative once again and pursues another family among all the people of the earth. The difference here is God does something unique, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12.2-3). This is one of the most beautiful passages I have ever read in the Bible! God just told one man that He would bless THE WORLD—all the families of the earth—through him. When you read the rest of the Abrahamic narrative you learn that promises to Abraham’s “offspring.” Galatians 3.16 tells us to look at details in Scripture, because it does not say “offsprings” (plural) but says “offspring” (plural). His point is that God always intended to create a new and better humanity through one of Abraham’s offspring. That offspring is Jesus Christ! All the families of the earth will be blessed by God when they trust Jesus.
The brokenness, sin, wickedness, and evil in this world will be dealt with through Jesus. He is the offspring who came to bless the whole world. Jesus coming into the world demonstrates that God keeps His promises. It also demonstrates to my friend who worries about whether or not God cares about the women she works with. He does! He sent His Son into the world, and Hebrews 4.15 tells us, “For we DO NOT have a high priest who is UNABLE to SYMPATHIZE with our weakness, but one who in EVERY respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” For instance, during Jesus' time one could argue women were viewed as even less than they are in our society. Yet Jesus had women present all throughout His earthly ministry. There was a woman caught in adultery tossed at Jesus’ feet and they were ready to stone her (notice the man involved was not thrown down with her—cf. John 8.1-11). Jesus does theological judo and defeats her oppressors. Women were the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ, which would have been impermissible evidence in a court of law at the time (Mark 16.1-8). So not only does Jesus value women, but so do His disciples.
The values of this world are not always the same values of God. And the beautiful thing is Christians have been shown favor by God to demonstrate these values to the world, to teach the values to them, and to be instruments used by Jesus to begin to put an end to this sinful brokenness. This is why I love that my Christian friend has been called by God to demonstrate to these women who have been rejected by the world that they are valuable to her, but more importantly they are ALL valuable to God. May more of us come to a clear understanding of what it means for us to blessed by God so we can bless others.
J. Pope - The Doxa Dude