The Lamb, the Throne, and the Desert: II. Falling; III. Rebellion, Restoration, and the Battle of the Ages; IV. The Man Who Walks with God

II. Falling

i

Pride, seduction, and the hazards of freedom

We do not know that man was incapable of rebellion without the participation of a seducer.   But as it happened, a seducer did arrive.  It seems that the seducer had a purpose…and still has a purpose: to take some part of creation, if not all of creation, away from our Creator, away from his own Creator.

Satan is the seducer of many angels:

“His tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and flung them to the earth.”[1]

Man is open to seduction, because man has both the freedom to turn away from God and the expectation to live with his soul bound to God.

That seducer, Lucifer, a creature fashioned by God within the work of heaven and earth, had the noblest pedigree of any angel, and was no seducer until pride led him to so magnify himself in his own eyes that the dominion of God caused him pain, and he turned to challenge that dominion.

There are two chapters in the Bible which speak enigmatically of the origins of Lucifer, Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.

The beginning of the passage in Ezekiel is addressed to “the ruler ofTyre,” accusing him of the sin of pride, of making himself out to be a god.  Then a second layer of prophecy begins in verse 11, addressed to “the king ofTyre”, seemingly addressing the real power behind the throne and denoting someone of ancient origin:

“You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone adorned you: …you were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.  You were on the holy mount of God; You walked among the fiery stones.  You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till wickedness was found in you.  …Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.                                                                      Ezekiel 28.12-17 excerpts

Isaiah gives us more:

You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, On the utmost heights of the sacred mountain, I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

We find here that Satan, as Lucifer, was “ordained” to be, and that he was “created.”   As a cherubim Satan was among the highest angels.  God declares him “the model of perfection.”  He lived in intimate communion with God and was “blameless” …until his heart became proud.

Satan vaunts, “I will raise my throne above the stars of God.”  Whether “the stars of God” refers to literal stars or to heavenly beings, it seems that the pride of Satan begins to take shape in terms of God’s creation.  “The stars,…. the sacred mountain,…. the tops of the clouds,”…this all sounds like the created world, heaven and earth.

“You were in Eden,” and it appears that even when Adam enters the garden there might still be a time where Lucifer is yet loyal to his God.  But Satan’s pride becomes ambition, becomes a plan to advance his own power in the created world.

Behind the scenes of the Genesis narrative Satan is witness to the progress of creation, of which he is a part, and sets himself in opposition to his place in the created order.   Satan looks at creation and looks at the Most High God, El Elyon, and presumes to covet for himself God’s lordship of the world.  It would seem to be an incredible act of self delusion to be a created being and to imagine oneself free to ascend above the  power of the Creator.   Then again, if we look at ourselves, how easily we are able to imagine ourselves without a need to honor the One who made us for himself.

We discover Satan in the creation narrative as he is making a play for the heart of man, making an attempt to drive a wedge between God and the heart of his creation.

When Satan enters the garden with intentions of deceit, where is our Creator?  Where is the Word?

There is a movie by Satyajit Ray, The Home and the World, where an Indian prince marries a beautiful woman.  But instead of following tradition and keeping her guarded away in a life within the women’s quarters, he gives her free rein of the palace.

An old school friend of the prince comes to stay as house guest.  It turns out that the friend is a political activist, campaigning among the prince’s own serfs for the overthrow of the aristocracy.  It also comes about that the bride of the prince begins to yield to the guest’s flirtations…Where is the prince?  We see him stand silently in the shadows behind a carved screen, his heart breaking, without a motion, without a word.

He has determined that for his wife, and for his friend, he will not intervene.  He will have them in his life only on the highest terms.  More than his own kingdom he wants the true loyalty of his friend and the spontaneous love of his wife.  He will have their friendship and their love in the context of their complete freedom, or not at all.

So our Lord at this moment.  He has the power to intervene.  Lucifer is the product of his own creation.   He could destroy him.  But for the moment, until that eventual day when Satan displays to the world the emptiness of his ambitions, our God will leave him also free to act.  “A bruised reed he will not break.”  We also are to be tested.  Our God will wait through generations and ages to receive to himself the loyalty and voluntary love of the very few.  He will know us from within that freedom which he gave us as our inheritance, or not at all.

ii

Rebellion and the isolation of the heart

The serpent enters the garden.  We know that it is Satan from the words of Jesus in the book of Revelation:  “…that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, the seducer of the whole world….”[2]

It would be more flattering to mankind if the contest between Satan and his victims had taken longer – more argument, more resistance, like the duel between Job and his friends.  But it seems to have passed quickly.  Some say it was Satan’s cleverness to go to Eve who had not received directly the command to refrain from the tree.  And yet it appears that God was very present in the garden, even “walking in the cool of the day,” and it would seem that both Adam and Eve knew clearly what was expected of them.

Temptation comes… the only possible temptation which would endanger their integrity: the temptation to entertain in their actions a rebellion of the will against the will of God.  He has created them.  He has blessed them.  He has loved them and given them each other.  He has given them a purposeful role in the ongoing process of history.  They lack nothing.  In such an environment, how does the integrity of the will become perverted?

Satan’s working model is his own ritual of rebellion: his awareness of himself swelling with pride until all that is over him oppresses him.  Over him the person of God and the law of God.  Now Satan will urge Eve to magnify herself, to boldly take possession of God’s own vision, as Satan reviles both the law and the person of God.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made; and he said to the woman: Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?  And the woman said unto the serpent: Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said: Ye shall not eat of it, and ye shall not touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman: “Ye shall not surely die!”  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.  3.1-6

Addressing God’s claim that death will follow the ingestion of the forbidden fruit, Satan counters that it is an outright lie.  Satan implies that God has deceived her in order to limit her enjoyment of something that is actually good for her.  This is the introduction of the radical deceit that there might be for man some material substance which could be of such supreme value that it would be worth having even in rebellion against the will of God.  The argument encourages them to the conceit that the expansion of the knowing of their mind, a gnosis, might be of more value than the intimacy of their communion with God.  Hence a sprouting of Gnosticism becomes the earliest deception.

Satan’s argument is an encouragement to view nature and its fruit immediately, as having independent existence for man, not subject to the claims of God, for there is an implication that man has direct “right” to Nature and that God has overstepped “his bounds” in setting a boundary between man and the tree.  In the end, the argument is a denial of the supremacy of God and a base promotion of the supremacy of the individual consciousness.

The punch line of Satan’s argument is complex and fully loaded: “and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan has accused God of lying, of denying them the blessings of creation, of valuing them less than he should.  Now comes a seemingly respectful characterization which claims that God is very sophisticated, “knowing good and evil.”  Didn’t Satan just accuse God of lying, of hoarding his treasure, and of disrespecting his creation?  Satan is actually claiming that God’s mode of action is beyond all law, and his allusion to the sophistication of God as “knowing good and evil” is actually an insinuation that he is beyond good and evil, and that they, by seizing the fruit of the tree, will become, like God, beyond good and evil.  Without a doubt, as they savor the prospect of disobedience, already a foray into life beyond good and evil, their imaginations must have been reeling with the thought of what might actually ensue.

The artistic tradition, as well as prevailing translations[3], has Eve beguiled by the red of the apple.  The Hebrew text does not.  In the text she is thinking about the tree.  She is deep into the source of the fruit.  Where fascination with a glistening apple might suggest an unholy idolatry of substance, her fascination with the tree suggests the seeds of the coming idolatry of “independent” Nature, which will place the forces of regeneration and sexuality above every other power.  Eve is imagining that this incredible tree just might be the source of a power that can turn her into a goddess…one who acts on the same playing field as God.  Desire blinds her to simple consciousness of the One who created Nature and the tree.  And so she steals from God and shares it with her mate.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed together fig leaves and made themselves aprons.   3.7

Until this moment there has never been anything but total intimacy between themselves and their God.  In this moment they have made themselves in their will and in their actions other than God, over against God, and they see themselves alone, unable to identify themselves with the person of God.  Seeing themselves alone, they see a world defined along the lines of material and visual geometry, like the apple, like the self of temptation.  The apple is now surface, color, taste, a broken core upon the ground.  Adam and Eve are no longer the magnificent center of creation, bound into the very being of God.  They are legs, arms, chin, mouth, hair.  Even the speech which God gave to them does not seem fully to belong to them.  The one whom they loved they now fear.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.  And the Lord God called unto the man, and said unto him: “Where art thou?”  And he said, “I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.  And he said: Who told thee that thou wast naked?  From the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat of it, hast thou eaten?     3.8-11

Rebellion defiles the heart and, of ourselves, we can not put it away.  It is not something we have done to ourselves.  It is something we have done toward our God.  As we fail in the preservation of the lordship of God in the chambers of the heart, the soul lives in mourning, regardless of the good face put upon our daily lives.  Without the animating presence and intelligence of the rule of God in the heart, the soul is without riches and must make its way flimsily in the world, fabricating for itself the appearance of strength of life, composing drama for itself in which it conquers for itself puppets of power, lust, knowledge, and even charity.  We may pretend that no rebellion has transpired.  We may imagine that the rebellion is real but without significance.  We may imagine that God is not watching, or that he is not there.   In the end, if we fail to recognize our true kinship with our God, our soul is lost to him, and we will not know the life which is our expectation.  Jesus said,

What profit is it for a man to gain the whole world and to forfeit his soul?  What could a man offer as an equivalent for his soul?[4]

 

                                            iii

The collapse of the spirit

Neither Adam nor Eve can stand before God and take responsibility for what they have done.  Adam blames Eve.  Eve blames the serpent.

And the man said: the woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.  And the Lord God said unto the woman:  What is this thou hast done?  And the woman said:  The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.              3.12-14

Adam and Eve were seduced by an argument that substance precedes spirit.  God needs them to know that spirit precedes substance.  Temptation is a test.  Everything of great value must be tested.  A sword is hammered out, then heated and literally folded and hammered out again, over and over, until the repeated violation of the blade makes it strong and flexible.  Jesus said, “I reprove and discipline those whom I love.”

God has allowed mankind to have freedom, to be tested, and now to know the consequence of opting for the inversion of spirit and substance.  He has awarded us substance in quantity…but inverted: in the exodus from the garden things change.

And to Adam he said: because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life.  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field.  In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till your return unto the ground; for out of it you were taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return. … And the Lord God said: Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, may he not put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.  Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove out the man…”  3.17-19; 22-24a

Now nature, instead of being for man, is for itself.  Put under a curse, nature is fallen, like man.  Thorn and husk, it yields its fruit only through the extended labor of man.  “By the sweat of your brow…”

Now Adam and Eve have seen their nakedness.  We see their embarrassment.  But we see little evidence of repentance.  Neither one asks to be forgiven.  When Eve blames the serpent, she is blaming God’s creation, Nature, by which she was so smitten.  When Adam blames Eve, “the woman you gave me,” he is blaming God.

Only with Abel, the second child, will come a perception of sin, of mercy, and of the new condition of man expelled from the garden.  Cain will turn him into a martyr.

Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden.  The central consequence of the fall lies in the words of the original warning:  “If you eat of it you shall die.”  This is more than the promise of the mortality of the nephesh body: it is the promise of the collapse of the spirit unnourished by the sustaining presence of the Spirit of God.  This collapse will manifest itself in the search for compensatory sustenance, in aggressive hunger for the substance of the earth.  In tears of disappointment it will become unholy anger against God.  It will establish itself in entrenched rebellion.

The Tree of Life stands not far from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It is apparently capable of giving the nephesh body the capacity to live forever.  Rebellion underway, it is God’s concern that our first parents be removed from the garden before their penchant for exotic fruit renders them capable of rebellion for eternity.  They must be able to lose the nephesh body, which is, so far, temporal.  Their essential being will live on.  But the earth will become a garden, where men will be seeds, mortal, and God will be able to know the deeds of men, before granting them eternity.  Looking at their lives on earth, God will be able to gather to himself those who put aside rebellion, those who bring their fealty to him.

What will we make of future generations?  Will we find that Adam and Eve and a handful of others are the anomalies in an otherwise noble and faithful line of men?  It does not seem to work out that way.  The promised rewards of sin, physical mortality and spiritual death, overtake the human culture.  Faithfulness to God becomes the anomaly.

Apart from any inherited difficulties, perhaps it is simply the case that we are all equally as prone to rebellion as was Adam.  Then again, perhaps we could have done better.  God’s promise to Adam had been that if he should eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die.  Do we his children inherit a curse of death because of Adam’s sin?  It would seem to be an oversimplification to say only that we are paying for Adam’s sin: we find throughout the words of God that we are individually responsible for our actions, Adam included.[5]  Adam can not lay the blame for his actions upon Eve.  And we can not blame Adam.  We are made of the same stuff as the original Adam.  We are made after his kind.  We die for our own sin.  More than that, if we know the truth of God and do not warn our wandering brother, we are responsible for his blood too.[6]

It has been said that we, Adam’s seed, were “in” Adam from the beginning and so are included in his sin.  If so, it seems that we are being punished for what we could not alter.  Perhaps we would have resisted.  To include us in his sin by virtue of biological connection seems like excessive biological literalism.  Nevertheless, we are not free of his sin.  Somehow we are included in his sin.  Adam sinned and we seem bound to sin.

If we look not so much at Adam’s act of rebellion as at the denouement, we find ourselves stained with a stain which we are hard pressed to disown, even if we had little to do with its origin.

In returning to the heart of God’s first warning, we may contemplate the possible range of consequences: the fruit is to “bring death” to the man and the woman.  It brings physical death, because God removes them from access to the tree of life and the possibility of immortal nephesh bodies.  It brings spiritual death because rebellion becomes an impediment to the communion of their spirits with the Spirit of God.  It brings a culture of death and grief, since it leads to their expulsion from the graceful ease of the garden into a world of thorns and struggle.[7] The fruit also brings them the knowledge of good and evil: God acknowledges this in the text:

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  Genesis 3.22

Knowledge yes, but not necessarily the boon that they expected.  Before rebellion, during temptation, Satan had tried to associate the possession of this knowledge with godlike power.  Now it seems clear that it is more truly made of godlike solitude – a firsthand taste of what we know as alienation, our possession once we have turned against our God, once we have broken his law and made ourselves “other than” and “over against” God.

This alienation, as reality, as possibility, as climate and culture, does not seem to escape us any more than sin and rebellion escape us.  We live in a world where we not only find ourselves alienated by sins which we can not escape.  We also find ourselves alienated by the sins of our brothers, our parents, our teachers, our government.  We live in a world where we are surrounded by models of insurrection, daily promulgations of inspiration to insurrection, from people who proudly choose to stand alone, upholding the claim that they are a world unto themselves.  This is the essence of the face and dress of fashion, the look of being totally self-contained, a world unto oneself, or, as Jesus ascribes voice to the temperament of Babylon in Revelation:

A queen I sit, no widow I, tears I shall never know.                         Revelation 18.7

The model of the brave and solitary hero is close to the heart of most art and literature.[8]  We are so tempted and encouraged in the art of insurrection that we do not see it as insurrection but simply as Culture.  In this climate we are hardly able to hold to the references by which we are to know what it means to walk in the open embrace of our God.

For us who are in pursuit of Yeshua, God’s word stands supreme, the sword which cuts through the darkness, the faithful witness to the nature of our true culture, our true origins, our true purpose, our one and only King, Jesus, the actual  lord of time and history.

 

iv

Two visions of the world

The first sons of Eve, Cain and Abel, present themselves before God:

And it came to pass in process of time, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flocks and of the fat thereof; and the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.  And Cain was wroth and his countenance fell.  4.3-5

Cain clearly expects something.  To his mind, God owes him something.  He has put an offering of vegetables and fruit upon an altar for the consideration of his God.  But how to show respect and honor to God with an offering of fruit?  He must show what he has done with his life, put out his best fruits and say, “Look, you gave me life, and this is what I have done with it.  I have tilled the ground and harvested exceptional and beautiful things.”

It might have worked before the fall.  But things are different now.  God is watching and waiting, for a Noah, for an Abraham, for someone who can see the throne of God over their head, someone who can understand the fallen and unworthy state of man, someone who can perceive the goodness of God and that the fall is not the end of the story, but that the hope of restoration is in the foundations of the world.  But Cain only knows to say, Look at me and what I have done.

Abel uniquely has the mind of the mystic.  Abel takes a new lamb and lays it on the altar before God.  Does Cain look on in horror as Abel slits its throat?  Is Cain baffled as God honors a blood smeared corpse as superior to his offering of the finest fruit?

Do we not hear Abel say, “I am the child of rebels.  I am myself a rebel.  I feel the burden of my father’s sin.  I feel the burden of my own sin and the sin of my brother.  There is nothing which we can do or make or harvest or say which can cover our sin.  We deserve to die….  To you, my God, I offer the truth of my emptiness…..But if there were only this emptiness, I would come before you empty – handed and naked.  Instead, I have brought this lamb, the spilled blood of a spotless lamb, because I see written in this world the evidence of your grace, evidence of your providential architecture:  that you, my God, in the bowels of Creation, have already provided the One who will stand in our place and bear the consequence of our sin — even your own self, my God.”

 

 

                                              *   *   *   *   *   *   *     

III. Rebellion, restoration, and the battle of the ages 

One thing I ask of the Lord, This is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.  Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.  Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.  My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.  Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.  Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Savior.  Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.  Teach me your way, O Lord…..                                                                       Psalm 27.4-11

i

                                Rebellion, contagion, and blindness

The disciple knows about rebellion.  He has come into the presence of God, he seeks God’s face, and he knows the role and the power of the rebellious spirit to separate him from God.  The closer the disciple comes to his God, the more he is freed from the spirit of rebellion, and the more he finds the remnants of his sin offensive, sin which  he could not endure but for the fact that his Lord has taken it all upon himself.

The theologian coolly measures the judgment of God, carefully refining the formula which releases him from sin. The theologian calculates the proposition by which his sin is of no account.

The disciple knows intimately the depth of sin of which he is capable.  He looks his sin in the face and it grieves him.  But he is only able to look at it and recognize it because he is made free of it by the One who loves him.  The object of his passion, the lover of his soul, has set him free and he enjoys in freedom the effort of reaching to please his master. He enjoys the discipline and the mastery of his lofty and merciful and loving Father.

In Psalm 51 David labors with his sin, yet knowing that cleansing and mercy come from the One who expects the most from him, who leads him, who teaches him:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me           Psalm 51.1-11

For the disciple, no loss could be greater than to be separated from God.  We see in the garden that there is no such thing as man separate from God’s claim upon his actions, his responsibility to the parameters of life set down by God.

We realize that sin prevails throughout human life; we are so accustomed to the presence of sin that we take it for granted as “part of life.”  We do know, in fact, that no one is without sin.  But we also know that we are created for radical fealty to our God.  Were it not so, God would have had no room to take offense at Adam’s sin.

Our sin is not only an offense against a holy God, it is an offense against the radically elevated purpose for which we are created.  The consequence of that sin, since it begins in our own heart and choice, is to disrupt the union between our God and ourselves, for we are designed to share wholeheartedly in the purposes of God.

Herbert H. Farmer writes thoughtfully about the dance between the free person of God and the free person of man:[9]

“…..man is first, last, and all the time a person; and … as such he stands first, last, and all the time in relation to the eternal Person, to God…it is that relationship which constitutes him – Man…man is distinctly man at all only because – whether he knows it or not, whether he likes it or not – he stands, right down to the innermost core and essence of his being, in the profoundest possible relationship to God all the time in an order of persons.”

Farmer continues with a description of that relationship.   In view of Adam and the expectation which God lays upon him, we may judge the truth of it:[10]

“What then is this relationship to God which is so deeply and foundationally constitutive of human life?…there is at the very heart of it the element of claim – that is to say, a requirement which man is free to reject, but which he cannot escape…..What then is the claim?  The answer is: God claims man for complete obedience in complete trust, for complete trust in complete obedience….What does this mean in terms of our actual every day existence as men?…The divine claim always draws its practical content from the claim of finite persons upon us.  The two claims, the divine claim and the human claim, are not to be separated from one another.  Man is called to obey and trust God by loving his brethren; and he cannot deeply and truly meet the claim of his brethren to his love save in complete obedience and trust toward God.”

In the state of union between the disciple and his God, there is no relationship with our fellow man which is not mediated by God and his presence.  What we do is done before God.  Our brother, in his being, never ceases to be a creature of God in the presence of God.

Rebellion is a rejection of the presence and claim of God.  It is also a rejection of the mediating presence of God in our relationship with our brother.[11]  Cain’s murder of Abel follows Adam’s rejection of God’s boundaries.

Seven generations run from Adam through Cain to the time of Noah.  In that time rebellion becomes rampant.  How will restoration come?  A man in his freedom must choose to walk with God.

We look at our most remote ancestors and their rebellion which will become so great that it will become labeled, not by a town or a province, but by “the world”, “the city of the world.”  David will write in Psalm 2:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.

And Jesus, in the great prayer before his trial and crucifixion, will say of his disciples:[12]

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.   My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world even as I am not of it.

God created the world and now his faithful subjects, the heart of his desire, live as aliens within it!  How incredible that God should create the world and that the world, apart from a small remnant, should go into rebellion and remain in rebellion.

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”[13]

Satan’s contest with God does not end in Eden.  Satan continues his so far successful campaign of deception.  And rebellion, having damaged access to the source of all understanding, feeds the blindness of the generations which follow.

ii

Darkness and separation

Without repentance, the rebellion of our first parents becomes a state of rebellion.  Undoubtedly, there is a certain amount of shock connected to being expelled fromEden.  It was so beautiful.  It must be on their mind: How to get back?  But they must choose their course:  back to what?  back to God?  back toEden?  Is it unlimited substance and the lack of thorns that they miss most, or is it the voice of their God in the garden?  What if they find God and still have to work their fingers to the bone?  If they find enough substance, maybe they won’t need God.  And what about the leap of knowledge that came with one little act of rebellion, one little taste of forbidden fruit?  They are not even dead!  Maybe Satan was right.  Maybe they will live forever.  Maybe being out ofEdenwill leave them free from the claims of God.  Maybe they can just take what they want when they want it.  How much worse can it get?

Cain tests God.  In jealousy over the offering of Abel, he invites his brother out into a field and kills him.  Abel dies, but what does that mean to Cain?  God asks, “Where is your brother Abel?”  Cain, puffing up with the conceit that a man can be a kingdom unto himself: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” … a sneering retort, a scowl, a total rejection of God’s claim upon him.  Cain, ensconced within himself, implies that his brother is not in his domain.

God answers, “Listen!  Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”  God says that Abel is in his own domain and that the loss of his living being is an offense to him.  The violation of that life by Cain is testament to Cain’s disregard for the domain of God.  Cain’s rebellion is now as great or greater than that of his parents.  And, as far as we know, this crime can not be traced directly to the meddling of Satan: it is the inherited seed of rebellion, the exaltation of the autonomous self, the denial of the claim of God, all taking root in the heart and becoming manifest against God.

Beyond the general curse of the ground which followed the sin of Adam [3.17], Cain receives an additional curse that is to end his career of tilling the earth.  God sends him out to be a wanderer.  Cain complains, “My punishment is too great to bear.” [4.13]  Here Rashi claims that Cain is actually challenging God’s capacity for mercy: “In wonderment [a question]: ‘You [God] bear the worlds above and below, and my iniquity can you not bear?’”[14]

Cain fathers a line of descendants: Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methushael, and Lamech.  Lamech fathers Naamah who will become the wife of Noah.  He fathers two sons, Jubal, “the father of all who play the harp and flute,” and Tubal-Cain, “who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.”  Rashi says his name implies that he “spices up” Cain’s capacities as a maker of instruments of death.

Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, fathers a line of descendants extending to Noah, including many unmentioned brothers and sisters: Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah.  This Lamech, says of his son Noah, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.”  The land is still savage and unyielding.  Noah has three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

iii

The first messianic prophesy and the beginning of hope

To what end this populating of the earth if it remains in universal rebellion?  During the time from Adam to Noah, Satan undertakes a concerted invasion of human society.  Where is the hope?  In Noah?  Can Noah save the world?  No. Can the world be saved for the sake of Noah?  Perhaps.

Hope lies with our Creator, and the first declaration of our hope is clearly laid down on the very day when Adam and Eve and Satan first have their feet held to the fire by God.

On that day, God says prophetically to Satan:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”[15]

“He” is to be the seed of the woman.  For him human history will wait in anticipation.

Satan has made an appearance as contestant for the throne of creation.  The lines spoken above are the gauntlet thrown down, marking the beginning of the battle of the agesThey promise that the fruit of man and woman will transcend rebellion.  That the incredible potential which God has conceived for mankind will realize itself at some date in a descendant of Eve, a child of Adam, who will destroy Satan, though allowing that the descendant of Eve will suffer at Satan’s hand.  He will stand as proof of the love and faithfulness of God.  He will ultimately win back the world.

This is the first of the great line of prophecies which will be given to those who are loyal to God, prophecies which will become increasingly specific by the measure that men are able to profit from them.

                                                                       iv             

The remnant for whom God saves the world

 “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of man that they were fair; and they took for themselves wives, whomsoever they chose.”[16]

The fall is only partially about man.  Satan is at war with God.  If he can seduce us entirely, then he, perhaps, can field the claim that the jewel of the heavens rightfully belongs to him.  Conceivably he imagines that he may someday hold the floor in the court of heaven and win his wildest dream, arguing for possession of a world which has abandoned its ties to its God.  We must not ignore the seriousness of Satan’s intentions.  The book of Revelation asks us to hold it in mind, and in the series of visions provided to John we receive a brief but vivid portrait of our determined enemy and his goals:

“Then another portent was seen in heaven!  There was a huge red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems upon his heads; his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven [his fallen associates whom he drags with him] and flung them to the earth.  And the dragon stood in front of the woman who was on the point of being delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born.  She gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron flail….

“And war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting with the dragon; the dragon and his angels also fought, but they failed, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer.  ….’the Accuser of our brothers is thrown down, who accused them day and night before our God.  But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they had to die for it, but they did not cling to life.  Rejoice for this, O heavens and ye that dwell in them!  But woe to earth and sea!  The devil has descended to you in fierce anger, knowing that his time is short.’”[17]

“And when the dragon found himself thrown down to earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male childEnraged at the woman, the dragon went off to wage war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep God’s commandments and hold the testimony of Jesus.”[18]

“Then as I stood on the sand of the sea, I saw a Beast rising out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads…To him the dragon gave his own power and his own throne and great authority…”[19]

Satan promised that Adam and Eve would become like God.  In the generations from Adam to Noah, Satan sends into the society of men his minions, his demi-gods, his fallen angels, to live and breed among them.  Fallen angels breed with mortal women and produce a race of giants, another deceit by which Satan perhaps points to substance, the increased size of a bred race, and claims the “stature” of his program for mankind.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days[20] – and also afterward[21]— when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.  They were the heroes of old, men of renown.[22]  The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.[23]

The rebellious souls of men parade themselves in corrupted forms.  We can only imagine that the autonomy of the self has become the pillar of culture, and unfettered Liberty the goddess of mankind, according to the “law” of Satan, Ut fiat Libertas, “Do as thou wilt.”

The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.[24]

In these words the God of all worlds allows us to see in his own person a great vulnerability, as it seems to be an inescapable component of the heart which chooses to love jealously, while allowing total liberty to the object of its love.

And so we come to Noah, and the continuity of history hangs on the faithfulness of one individual.

“So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air – for I am grieved that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. [25]

 

                                                   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

IV. The Man Who Walks With God

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.[26]

i

 Noah comes to rest upon the mystery of God’s mercy

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.[27]

Noah knows and is known by God.  Instead of claiming the autonomy of his own will and self, he prayerfully places his soul in the presence of God.  He wants nothing for himself but that his self will be totally for his God.  He walks with God.

In that relationship Noah grows to real intelligence, the capacity to hear the voice of God and to accept the validity of the truths which God presents to his heart, even when those truths do not lay well with the available material evidence or the conventional wisdom.  Only a Noah can be told that the world is about to be washed away, “So harvest an entire forest of cypress wood, build to an unprecedented design, learn how to care for wild animals, and trust God to set you down in a new world.”

Everything on earth will perish.  But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you…..Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.  Take with you seven of every clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth…And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.[28] 

The flood comes.  Up through the time of Noah God has allowed men to live seven, eight, and even nine centuries.  Besides being rebellious, they are formidably experienced and clever.   Their history and accomplishments are about to be wiped away… except for what will be retained in the person of Noah and his family.  For the narrative, time is counted within the years of the life of Noah:

“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened….[29]

“On the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible….[30]

By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth…[31]

 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark,…”[32]

As soon as Noah and his family and all the animals leave the ark, the first thing Noah does is build an altar.  He then takes some of the clean animals and some of the clean birds which he has so carefully saved from extinction and sacrifices them in a burnt offering on the altar.  The conservationist in us is appalled.  But God is immensely pleased.

The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.  And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.”[33]

Why does the aroma of the sacrifice so please God?  Noah, like Abel, recognizes that, in spite of all cleverness and virtue, he is born into sin, a child of rebellion.  As such he owns no claim to the goodness of God but through the mercy of God.

Noah is prime witness to the flood, the judgment and re-creation of the world.  He sees the perfect justice and faithfulness and power of his God.  He knows that God will, through the time-consuming majesty of his own in-historical acts, through the time-measured nobility of individual persons acting in fealty to their God, and through time granted to the enemies of God to demonstrate before the courts of heaven the emptiness of their boasting — through these means, Noah knows that God will render his world perfect and banish from it all evil.

Conscious of the sin of man and the elevated holiness of God, Noah understands that this mercy can not come upon us short of the banishment and death of someone in our place, some sacrifice so profound that it can cover the sin of every child of Eve.  Upon debarking from the ark, Noah surely knows that to ignore the ritual of sacrifice might open him to the imagination that he has deserved salvation from the flood.  In observing this rite of sacrifice, Noah reaches out to God in gratitude and acknowledgement of the architectural foundations of mercy.

Noah does not know, perhaps, the name Yeshua, but on this altar he acknowledges that the survival of the world in this six hundredth year of his life can not occur short of the sacrificial death of the One chosen by God.  Must not that sacrifice be an individual, a person, and must it not be offered freely?  Must it not be greater than mankind?  Who but God himself will do such a thing?


[1] Revelation 12.4

[2] Revelation 12.9

[3] see New International Version

[4] Mark 8.36,37

[5] see Jeremiah 31.27-30, Ezekiel 18.1-4

[6] Ibid

[7] Gen. 3.17

[8] See Gilgamesh, legend of rebellion

[9] God and Men, Herbert H. Farmer,  Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, p 79.   Mr. Farmer is also the author of the introduction to The Interpreter’s Bible.

[10] Ibid. p. 80

[11] see Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

[12] John 17.14-16

[13] John 1.10

[14] Rashi p.40

[15] Genesis 3.15

[16] Genesis 6.1,2 Rashi

[17] Revelation 12.3-5; 7,8,10-12

[18] Revelation 12. 13,17

[19] Revelation 13.1,2

[20] during the generations leading up to Noah

[21] they and their progeny will reappear after the flood inCanaan as the Anakites, etc.

[22] undoubtedly, in my opinion, the root of the characters of Gilgamesh, and Egyptian and Greek mythology.

[23] Genesis 6.4,5

[24] Genesis 6.6

[25] Genesis 6.7,8

[26] II Chronicles 16.9

[27] Genesis 6.9

[28] Genesis 6.17,18; 7.1-3,5

[29] Genesis 7.11

[30] Genesis 8.4,5

[31] Genesis 8.13

[32] Genesis 8.14,15

[33] Genesis 8.21

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