The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Sees, Part 2

We will return to Abraham and Sarah’s story next week and the way God resolves His promise to them. But before we get to that part of the story, we need to look at another woman who struggles to be seen and heard. This is Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant.

So after Abraham had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” 

“Your servant is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 

Genesis 16:3-6

Hagar is little more than a pawn in Sarah’s plan. Sarah views her as a means to an end, as her proxy for providing Abraham a child. In this regard, Sarah doesn’t truly see Hagar. Hagar is simply a servant, a non-person in Sarah’s eyes. There’s irony here: even though Sarah doesn’t feel truly seen, she is simultaneously guilty of not really seeing Hagar, of overlooking her as someone made in the image of God. To Sarah, Hagar is a thing to be used rather than a person to be loved.

Sarah’s plan shows us that one of the most unloving things we can do is use another person for our own purposes. When we don’t see others as fellow image-bearers, we’re liable to use them, to treat them as objects, as non-persons. This is one of the deep dangers of pornography — the objectification of another image bearer, reducing a person to simply an object used for gratification. The same could be said of gossip and slander when we reduce someone to a “thing” to be talked about rather than a person to be treated with dignity. Sarah is guilty of this same kind of reduction of Hagar. She simply uses her. 

But Sarah’s plan backfired…because it actually worked, at least insofar as it provided Abraham with a son. Abraham takes Hagar as his wife, which elevates Hagar’s status considerably. Now she answers not to Sarah but to Abraham. And in a typical case of the oppressed becoming the oppressor, the Bible says that Hagar despised Sarah once she became pregnant. In this context, to despise means “to look down upon.” Hagar becomes arrogant: “I have a child and you don’t; I have done what you could not.” And this is Hagar’s great mistake. She vindictively looks down upon the one who never truly saw her. 

And at this point, things spiral quickly: Sarah complains to Abraham about Hagar; Abraham demotes Hagar back to servant status, putting her under Sarah’s charge; and Sarah mistreats Hagar. The word “mistreat” is an interesting one. The deeper meaning here is this: “to degrade.” It is the same word that is used in Exodus to describe the terrible conditions of slavery the Israelites faced in Egypt. Here in Genesis, Sarah mistreats and degrades Hagar, the Egyptian; by the time we reach the Exodus story, the tables will have turned yet again as the Egyptians will mistreat the children of Israel. 
As a result of this mistreatment, Hagar decides to run. And then something remarkable occurred. 

The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 

Genesis 16:7-8

Shur was a place in the wilderness on the way to Egypt. It seems that in her distress, Hagar has decided to return to her homeland. Picture this pregnant woman all alone out in the wilderness trying to make it back to Egypt. She has already traveled many miles and she has many more miles to go before she makes it back home. 

What do you think was going through Hagar’s mind at this point? Her life has taken a dramatic turn because of this plan Sarah concocted. Did anyone ever consider what Hagar wanted? She never asked to be married to Abraham. What if there was someone else — one of Abraham’s herdsman, perhaps — that she hoped to marry? What if she wasn’t ready to be a mother just yet? No one in the whole story seems to show even the slightest interest in what Hagar wanted. She is simply a means to an end. And the minute her circumstances changed, she started dishing it right back to Sarah only to find herself back on the bottom again. 

I wouldn’t blame Hagar if she was asking, “Does anyone truly see me?” I would guess that’s why she chooses to return home, “Maybe back home they’ll see me and hear me.”

And this is where the angel of the LORD finds her. 

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand will be against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” 

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Genesis 16:9-13

The angel of the LORD is an interesting character in the Scriptures. This is the first of 48 references to the angel of the LORD in the Old Testament. The word “angel” simply means “messenger” and it seems that this messenger is often dispatched on special assignments throughout the Old Testament. But there are signs that he is more than simply an angel. This special messenger is often identified with God Himself as we see in this passage. That leads many people to believe that the angel of the LORD is a pre-incarnate version of God the Son — or the form that Jesus took in the Old Testament, to put it simply. That’s what I believe. This is no mere angel, but a full-fledged member of the Godhead standing before Hagar. 

And the messenger of the LORD calls Hagar by name. This woman who feels as if no one sees her, no one cares for her, no one stands up for her and her well-being — the messenger of the LORD, Jesus himself, calls her by name. 

Hagar the Egyptian has her own experience of the God of Abraham here. The same God who called Abraham now calls Hagar to go back to Sarah and to submit to her. The way forward with God is always the way of submission. But the real question God seems to be asking Hagar is less about submitting to Sarah and more about submitting to Him. God’s question to Hagar is the same question we discussed last week — the controlling question for her, for Abraham, and for all of us today — It’s God’s question: Do you trust me? 

God promises that Hagar will also have numerous descendants — and even though the history of those descendants is somewhat checkered throughout history, that does nothing to negate the fact that God chooses to bless this pregnant woman all alone in the wilderness. And Hagar’s response, at least in this episode, is the correct one. She submits to the will of God. She trusts the One who seeks her out in the wilderness. 
And Hagar comes away with a new awareness: “God sees me.” Even if no one else sees me, God sees me. She names her son Ishmael — “God hears me.” And she gives God a new name: El Roi, “You are the God who sees me.” The God who calls me by name. The God who loves me. 

Maybe today you feel like you’re one of the ones who is easily overlooked. Maybe you’re like Hagar: your life has been radically altered by the decisions of someone else. Someone used you, viewed you simply as a means to an end. Maybe you can relate to Hagar the Egyptian — you’ve never felt as if you really had a place among the people of God. Maybe you feel like she feels — you’re a long way from home, alone in the wilderness of loneliness and isolation. You feel unseen, unheard, and unloved. 

Let me ask you this: What would it do for you if you could hear Jesus call you by name? What would it do for you to know that Jesus truly sees you — He doesn’t see you as an object, as something to be used, as a means to an end. But instead, He sees you for who you are. He sees you because you were made in the image and likeness of God. That means He can’t NOT see you — because when He looks at you, He sees a reflection of the divine, a reflection of Himself. 

What if today, in this text, Jesus intends to confront you — to call you by name — to let you know that He sees you?

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The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Sees

Have you ever felt as if you weren’t really seen? When was the last time you felt ignored, overlooked, and forgotten — lost in the crowd? Have you ever felt as if you weren’t really being heard — as if your voice didn’t seem to matter?

Research has shown that when we are perpetually ignored and overlooked, our health suffers — our emotional health and even our physical health. That’s because we have an innate longing to be seen, to be heard, to be known.  

As we continue our Genesis study, we come to Genesis 16 and the story of two women who share in this struggle: the struggle to be seen and heard

The first of these two women is Sarah, Abraham’s wife. As we discussed last week, God promised to bless Abraham with descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. And month after month, year after year, Abraham and Sarah live with that promise. But month after month, year after year, their circumstances remain the same. They remain without a child. By the time we reach Genesis 16, Abraham is 85 years old and his wife Sarah was 75. And the possibility of having a child seems to grow more remote with each passing day.

We need to acknowledge that we are treading into some delicate territory here. Over the years, I have listened to many people who share in Sarah’s heartache. It is their deepest desire to have a child of their own and yet, for whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened. For some of our sisters and brothers, this is their most painful and most personal prayer. The last thing I want to do is add to that pain. But I do believe that God speaks a word to us today through Sarah’s story, painful though it might be. I believe Sarah’s story is a testimony to a God who meets us in our pain, who chooses to stand with us in our pain. 

Abraham and Sarah remain without a child, so Sarah comes up with a plan.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 

Genesis 16:1-2

In the ancient world, barrenness was the greatest source of shame for a woman. For example, Mesopotamian marriage contracts from this time period contained clauses obligating a wife in these circumstances to provide her husband with a surrogate so that he might have a family. We can only imagine the social pressure Sarah felt to provide children for Abraham. 

It’s not difficult to imagine Sarah pleading with God. “Lord, have you forgotten about us? Did you forget your promise to me? You asked us to leave home, to follow you to this land you were going to give us — and we did just as you said. And you promised to bless us with a child, with descendants as numerous as the stars. When are you going to keep your end of the bargain?” It’s not hard to imagine the ways that Sarah feels overlooked and ignored, even by God. Sarah is a woman who doesn’t feel seen; she doesn’t feel heard

After ten years of waiting on God to deliver on His promise, Sarah decides that she’s tired of waiting. Sarah doesn’t feel as if she’s being heard, so she decides to make her voice heard, even if that means altering the plans of Almighty God.

This, of course, is a mistake. Sarah’s failure here is a failure to trust. Personally, I understand why she did what she did — I have that same tendency to want to take matters into my hands as well. But this mistake has repercussions for Abraham and his descendants for years to come. 

Sarah follows the custom of the day rather than trusting in God to keep His promises. She decides to “help” God along by offering her maidservant to Abraham. Of course, God needs no help in keeping His promises. He needs no loophole in order to remain faithful to His word. But Sarah pulls Abraham aside and tells him her plan: he is to take Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden, as his wife and produce a child with her. 

V2, Abram agreed to what Sarai said. Literally, it reads, “he obeyed Sarai’s voice.” This is the same phrase found in Genesis 3:17 when God says Adam obeyed the voice of Eve rather than trusting in God. And here we see Abraham’s mistake. Sarah is not the only one at fault here. Abraham is a willing accomplice in Sarah’s plan. He, too, is guilty of “helping” God keep His promise.

To listen to any voice other than the voice of God is a failure of faith. 

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The Gospel According to Genesis: When We Trust God, Part 2

In Genesis 12:1-3, God speaks of the great blessing He will bestow upon Abraham. In fact, God uses the word “bless” five times in His call of Abraham. 

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you 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 shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3

Jewish interpreters see this as a deliberate counter to the fivefold occurrence of the word “curse” in Genesis 1-11: 

  1. Genesis 3:14, The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock…”
  2. Genesis 3:17, And to Adam he said…”Cursed is the ground because of you…”
  3. Genesis 4:11, “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood…”
  4. Genesis 5:29, …and he called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief…”
  5. Genesis 9:25, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” 

Five blessings, five curses. Interesting coincidence? Or is something more going on here? 

I think it is pretty obvious that God is at work, through Abraham, to bless His creation. God promises to bless Abraham so that he will be a blessing to others. In fact, through Abraham and his descendants, all the families of the earth will be blessed. Starting with Abraham, God sets in motion His plan to make right all that is wrong in the world. 
This blessing begins with covenant faithfulness and trust. This is one of the deep truths of the biblical story. As we have already seen, rebellion is the problem. Human sinfulness is active rebellion against God — it  distorts the image of God in us and damages our relationships with one another and with God. This is the great curse that we read about in the first chapters of Genesis —  and sin is a curse that is still at work in our world today. 

But here in Genesis 12 we see the solution to this problem: faithfulness — in the form of God’s promise to bless. God’s faithfulness to His promises is the key to overcoming the power of the curse. Abraham’s response to God’s promises is instructive for us — he trusted God and God counted it to him as righteousness. 

And today, the key question looms for us, the same question God posed to Abraham: Do you trust God? 

It needs to be said that trust didn’t always come easily for Abraham. And I take some comfort in that because trust doesn’t always come easily for us either. It’s certainly not as easy as preachers sometimes make it sound. There are times in Abraham’s story when he tries to take matters into his own hands — all that business with Hagar and Ishmael, for instance. On more than one occasion, he lies to a king by saying that Sarah is his sister rather than his wife. 

This is not to say that Abraham was necessarily unfaithful, only that exercising faith can be a bit of a challenge sometimes. And Abraham’s failures are usually the result of his own impatience. He grows tired of waiting on the Lord. God doesn’t always operate quickly enough for our tastes. I guess that’s one of the dangers of entering into a covenant relationship with an eternal being — His sense of timing is rarely going to square up with ours. 

 But through it all, God seems to say to Abraham, Do you trust me? 

And despite his flaws and his failures, Abraham keeps answering back, Yes, Lord, I trust you. 

In the hands of an interpreter like Paul, we learn that Abraham is the template of faith for us as well. In Galatians, Paul reaches back to the covenant agreement God made with Abraham and notes that it was founded upon trust. Speaking of Abraham, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Then Paul goes on to say: 

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 

Galatians 3:7-9

Paul is able to see the fullness of the blessing that began when Abraham took that first step out of Haran, away from his father’s house and toward an unknown land. What began that day has truly become a worldwide blessing, Paul says, for now it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. The true children of Abraham have likewise responded to the call of faith. Specifically, they have put their trust in Jesus as God’s Messiah — for He is the means through which God is acting to bless.

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 

Galatians 2:16

The blessing God brings to the world through Abraham is the faithful, trusting obedience of His Son, Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus is the culmination of Israel’s story. Like Abraham, Jesus left his father’s house; he became a wanderer in a foreign land. Throughout His ministry, Jesus will say, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” At the critical hour, Jesus faced the same temptation Abraham faced — the temptation to take matters into his own hands. In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, Jesus asks, “Father, would you remove this cup from me?” The kind of trust God requires doesn’t always come easily, even for Jesus

But this doesn’t make Jesus unfaithful — not anymore than it made Abraham unfaithful. In Jesus we find faithfulness and trusting obedience modeled perfectly and completely. In that all important moment in the Garden, as Jesus asks His Father to remove this cup from Him, we can only imagine the dialogue between them. But somewhere in there, I wonder if the question came from the Father to the Son, the question that defined that moment in Gethsemane just as it defined Abraham’s life, just as it is the controlling question for you and for me. 

Do you trust me? 

And Jesus replied, Yes, Father. I trust you. Not my will but Yours be done. 

How about you? Do you trust Him? 

The greatest blessings of all come when we place our trust in Jesus, the One who completes the will of God — the One whose trusting obedience is counted to us as righteousness. In Him we find redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, and the promise of life both meaningful and eternal.

Do you trust Him?

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The Gospel According to Genesis: When We Trust God

In our Genesis study, we’ve spent the last two weeks talking about A God Who Creates and A God Who Makes Promises. Today we want to build on that by looking at the extraordinary power of trusting in God. Today we’ll focus on the story of Abraham in Genesis 12. 

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you 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 shall be blessed.”
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…

Genesis 12:1-4

Abram — later known as Abraham — was 75 years old when this happened. Abraham and his people were originally from a place called Ur; they later settled in a land known as Haran. But God comes to Abraham and tells him to leave the security of his family and this familiar place to set out for a land unknown to him. In asking him to leave Haran, God is asking Abraham to leave the land where his father was buried. 
Put yourself in Abraham’s place just for a moment. What questions would you have if you heard what he heard? 

  • Where are we going? 
  • How long will it take to get there? 
  • How will I make a living when I get there? 
  • What language do they speak there? 
  • Most importantly: What am I supposed to tell my wife? Do they have a Target and a Starbucks there? (Questions my wife would be asking?!?)

Abraham surely had his own version of questions such as these. But none of his questions are voiced here in the text. Instead, the question that undergirds the whole episode doesn’t even come from Abraham, but rather from God. By calling him in this unique way, God seems to be posing one simple but essential question for Abraham — and it’s the same question God puts to us as well. 

God’s question to Abraham is His question to everyone.

Essentially, God is asking Abraham to trust Him. “I know you have questions, but here’s my question: Do you trust me? Because I’m going to be right there with you on this journey.” 

And this is how Abraham responded: 

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…

Genesis 12:4

Because of this, Abraham is known as “the father of faith.” He demonstrates that his ultimate allegiance is with God. In our world, we might think nothing of moving across the country to take a lucrative position with another company. We might think, “What’s the big deal? Abraham left home.” But it didn’t work this way in the ancient world. To leave the security of family and friends often meant becoming a defenseless wanderer in hostile, unknown territory. To set out like this without “your people” was to be an exile on foreign soil. 

But that’s what Abraham does. He leaves behind the security of the familiar, setting out into the unknown, to follow the call of the Lord. In response, Abraham says, Yes, Lord, I trust you. 

In our modern times, faith is often defined in terms of belief. In fact, the two are synonymous for most of us. But biblical faith is much more than what you believe to be true at an intellectual level. Biblical faith is always action-oriented. It is just as much about what you do as a result of that belief. What we call “belief” is certainly a part of that, but so is loyalty and allegiance and — in my opinion, this is the best word of all — trust. Because trust is a relational term. 

The Bible tells us that Abraham trusted in God rather than the false gods of his family. Centuries after Abraham, Joshua delivered this word from the Lord to the people of Israel. 

And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many.’”

Joshua 24:2-3

There’s a contrast here between Abraham and his family. God says that Abraham’s father and brother served other gods. In that regard, they were like most of the people in their day. But the text seems to be contrasting Abraham, implying very strongly that God chose him because he broke from the tradition of his father and worshipped the One True God alone. As God would later say, “You shall have no other gods before me,” — and Abraham is the template for this kind of faithfulness.  

And here we see a primary feature of biblical faith — trusting in God, even when it seems we are standing alone. 

Trusting in the One True God means forsaking a lot of false gods — all false gods, actually. And the Bible is honest about this: that’s not always going to be popular. Like Abraham, you might feel like a defenseless wanderer in hostile territory, an exile on foreign soil.

But when we trust in God, He promises that we are never alone. Never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you. God makes that promise in both the Old Testament and the New Testament in our Bibles so that we will understand His unwavering faithfulness to us when we trust in Him. When it seems we are standing alone, we are actually standing with the One True God who believes in making and keeping His promises (as we said last week). 

So we’re back to this idea of trust as a relational term. Abraham demonstrated faithfulness — not simply because he believed the right things about God, but because he put his trust in him. There’s a big difference there. 

To put it differently, Abraham went out not knowing where he was going. But this wasn’t blind faith because Abraham knew God. His act of trust was rooted in his relationship with the Lord. 

The Scriptures never call us to what is often referred to as “blind faith.” But over and over again, in times of uncertainty, the biblical story gives us glimpses of people putting their trust in God. Even though Abraham sets out for an unknown land, we cannot call this blind faith. Do you know why? Because even though Abraham didn’t know where he was going, he knew the One who called him and promised to guide him. Abraham could say, “I don’t know exactly how all of this is going to go but I know the One who says He’s going to go with me on the journey.” He could say as Paul would later say in 2 Timothy 1:12 (words that are echoed in the classic hymn), But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed. 

That’s true biblical faith. It’s putting our trust in God, trusting that He joins us on the journey. 

And so, God says to Abraham, Do you trust me? And in word and in deed, Abraham says, Yes, Lord, I trust you. 

Through these words, the one God is saying the same thing: Do you trust me?  How will you answer? 

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NFL Playoff Picks: Championship Games

So last week, we added the College Football Championship Game to our picks. Everyone picked LSU except Sunny, so here are the updated standings.

Joshua: 8-1

Jason: 7-2

Sunny: 5-4

Abby Kate: 5-4

Jackson: 4-5

So there are only three games left and Joshua has a one game lead on me. I have to make up some ground on him this weekend. Here are our picks:

Joshua is taking the Titans and the 49ers, so I’m going Chiefs and Packers. Sunny takes the Packers and Titans. Abby Kate and Jackson are taking the Titans and 49ers. I need to go 2-0 to win this thing.

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The Gospel According to Genesis: A God Who Makes Promises, Part 2

There are a couple of important points to make about the flood story: 

  1. The flood account reveals God’s wrath against sin. 

The flood story makes clear that God’s wrath is kindled because of sin. We’re reminded of the foundational truth of Genesis 1 — that we were made in the likeness of God, created to image God. But sin corrupts and distorts that image — it has the power to “uncreate” God’s good creation. And God doesn’t like it when anyone or anything gets in the way of His purposes. So His wrath burns against sin and it’s power to uncreate. 
In the story of Noah, we see that God does not turn a blind eye to the sin in the world. He pronounces judgment — because He would fail to be the just and holy God if He ignored sin and its power. 

Years ago, there was a church in town that had an interesting slogan on their sign. It wasn’t one of those church signs that was changed out every couple of weeks, either; it was permanent. Just underneath the name of the church, the sign said, “God’s not mad at you, no matter what.” And that always struck me as an odd thing for a church to put on the sign because the Bible is filled with story after story of God’s anger burning against sin — AND against people who commit those sins. Throughout the Old Testament, God tells Israel that His anger burns against them. Jesus expresses anger in the form of righteous zeal when he cleanses the temple in His ministry. 

Based upon what I find in the Bible, I think it’s entirely possible for God to be mad at me sometimes — in fact, in those times when I’ve committed sins even though I knew what I was doing was wrong, I think God was DEFINITELY mad at me. 

If we assume that God has somehow mellowed out with regard to His attitude toward sin, we should think again. We would do well to remember the Israelite picture of God as a Divine Warrior. After He delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh, Moses sang, The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name, (Exodus 15:3). This was on the heels of the parting of the Red Sea — similar to the flood account in that they are both acts of judgment and deliverance through water. And both stories reveal God as a warrior who always fights against the “uncreating” power of sin. 

It seems that we should hear the flood story as a dire warning. God does not take sin lightly. It is a grave matter to Him. The sin in our lives is a problem that needs to be addressed. And thankfully, that’s the other important part of the flood story. 

  1. The flood account reveals God’s covenant-making, promise-keeping character. 

God is a divine warrior, but He is much more than that, too. God is a covenant-making God. He does not desire to wage war against you, but against the sin in your life. He knows full well the power of sin, but He responds by entering into covenant — by making promises and keeping them. Think about that: God’s way of fixing what is broken is to make promises.

This points us to God’s faithfulness as an enduring hallmark of His character but also as the most powerful force in the universe. The reason we can have hope today is because God makes and keeps His promises. 

The sign of this covenant promise is the rainbow. God says, I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. In the Scriptures, the word “bow” usually describes a weapon of war — like “bow and arrow.” I think we’re certainly right to think of it this way in light of the destruction of the flood. The Divine Warrior has been engaged in battle against sin and wickedness. But now, on this side of the flood, the “bow” is not a weapon of war any more. The bow God sets in the clouds is a reminder of peace. It is the sign of the covenant treaty. It signifies that God has laid down His weapon. One Jewish rabbi says the rainbow symbolizes this because it is a bow pointed away from the earth. God says He will never again destroy all flesh in this manner — and the rainbow stands as the eternal reminder of this covenant.

This may the most important point of all: God believes in promises — He believes in making promises and keeping those promises. The rest of the Scriptures testify to His covenant-making, promise-keeping character: 

  • Psalm 105:8, He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations…
  • In Revelation 4, John is granted a vision of the heavenly throne. And around the throne he sees a rainbow (Rev. 4:3), an eternal reminder of God’s covenant with all humanity. 

The flood account tells us of the great power of God’s promises. And these covenant promises find fulfillment one day in Jesus, the Messiah. 

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you…was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. 

2 Corinthians 1:19-20

God’s covenant-making, promise-keeping character is most fully demonstrated in Jesus. Everything God ever promised comes to fulfillment in Him. 

Today, we need to hear this as a strong word against sin. If there is sin in your life, repent and turn to God. Ask for His forgiveness, for His wrath is kindled when we sin — because of sin’s power to “uncreate.” But the flood story also reminds us that God’s response to sin is to provide a cleansing through water. In 1 Peter 3, Simon Peter compares this to baptism. Speaking of the flood, the Apostle says: 

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

1 Peter 3:21

There is an act of new creation that comes through the water. It comes through confessing our sins but also through confessing the lordship of Jesus. It comes through the cleansing flood of being immersed in Jesus — that’s what the waters of baptism represent. And it comes through His gracious promise to redeem you and to make you whole.

God believes in making and keeping promises.

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Why You Should Read Your Bible

These guys with Messenger International point out something fascinating about the power of reading the Bible four times a week. God’s Word is powerful.

Reading the Bible 4X per week from Messenger International on Vimeo.

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