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Watershed


Genesis 12:1-3
1Now 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. 2And 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. 3I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and pin you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The Story: Genesis 12 marks a watershed, both in the writings of Moses and the history of God’s redemption. From this point forward the story of redemption slows and narrows, even as it holds out a worldwide and generation-spanning prospect. Here we meet Abraham (Abram) and learn about the precious and very great promises God made to him—promises which will remain central to the divine economy into the New Testament and beyond (cf. 2 Pet. 1:4; Rom. 4:13-17). The focus of the story of redemption is sharpened at this point, with a single family taking center stage in the Lord’s covenant plan. In Genesis 12 readers are introduced to two opposing lands—Egypt and Canaan. The former, we learn, is to be avoided and forsaken while the latter is the staging ground for everything God has promised His people. Moses connects Abraham with Noah—and, by implication, all that came before him—but also with the generation for whom he was compiling this account and, beyond that, even to the generations that are reading the story of Abraham to this day. The promises of God to a particular people, which were to be realized in a particular place, begin to take on a prominence that will dominate the rest of Old Testament revelation. Genesis 12 concludes the first part of Genesis and introduces, not merely the second part, but the rest of the Old Testament and the remainder of divine revelation. The promises God makes to Abraham and his offspring—to bless them, to make them a great and blessed people, and to bless the nations through them—are never very far from the story line anywhere you may be reading in the Old or New Testament. Genesis 12 marks yet another “beginning” for God’s story, a further development of the Lord’s plan to restore goodness to the earth. Everything that happens in Scripture from this point forward has, as it were, it’s second anchor here, in the calling of Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees.

The Structure: We’ll take our time getting through this chapter, because we want to see the careful way Moses crafted Abram’s story so as to shape the mindset of the people of his generation—and of ours. The chapter actually begins back in Genesis 11 (vv. 31, 32), and that initial “the LORD said” should probably be translated, “the LORD had said…”, thus clarifying the report recorded there.

What do you understand to be the “precious and very great promises” of the Lord (2 Pet. 1:4)?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
To Go into Canaan


Genesis 11:27-32
27Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran..

The Story: Holy cow! Another genealogy? Yes, but, again, note how Moses uses this genealogy to slow down the action and draw his readers (hearers) more personally into the story of God’s redemption. First, as we saw yesterday, God enlarged on the genealogy of Shem, slowing down the narrative from Noah to Abram. Now he enlarges on the genealogy of Terah (“these are the generations of Terah”), bringing us by still more detail to Abram. A new character is introduced, Lot, concerning whom more will be said later in the story (so we need to know about him now in order to appreciate his place then). Then God dramatizes the situation, provoking a question in our minds and inviting us to “hold our breath” and wait for more of the story: “Now Sarai was barren: she had no child.” And one more very significant detail of this brief genealogy: Look where it ends up—Canaan! This genealogy has the “father of the faith” moving from one land to another, from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan. God intends Abram to end up in Canaan. And He intends the same for Moses’ generation.

The Structure: You can’t miss the way these stories point forward, point forward, point forward—as if to say, “There’s more to come, more of God’s surprising covenant goodness, more of His sovereign favor and saving might.” That’s reading the Old Testament precisely the way God intends.

What is your practice of reading the Old Testament? How do you allow it to point you forward to greater covenant fulfillment and blessing?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
From Noah to Abram


Genesis 11:10-26
10These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters. …26When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

The Story: This genealogy has a unique “time-out” purpose: both “back and fill” and “narrow the focus.” Moses is starting to hone in now on that part of the story of God’s redemption and covenant which will be most important for the people of his day. So he takes a moment to expand the genealogy of Shem, first outlined in Genesis 10:21-29, giving his readers more detail relevant to their own situation. The people would have brightened by hearing the name, “Abram” (v. 26). Now we’re talking! Here’s someone they knew, since they’d all been taught from childhood that they were the descendants of “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So the line from Shem to Abram is traced, thus inserting Moses’ readers (more likely, hearers), into the events of God’s unfolding covenant, moving their sense of participating in God’s covenant along a distinct historical course, leading through significant individuals and events to their own time, demonstrating the sovereignty and grace of God at every stage. Those events would begin to take even sharper focus in chapter 12, as we shall see.

The Structure: These genealogies are just one means, among many, God uses to tie the threads of His Word tightly together into one unfolding narrative of redemption. They are fascinating both for their content as well as for their literary use, and they speak volumes, I think, about the divine authorship of God’s Word, and the careful way He has crafted that Word to meet the needs of His people.

Try to put yourself in God’s place, as He inspired Moses to include these genealogies in his narrative of these events. What was God thinking? How was He thinking about His people? And, thus, how does He think about you?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
The Redemptive Power of Culture


Genesis 11:5-9
5And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

The Story: Depictions of the Tower of Babel in the history of Christian art frequently show the tower being destroyed by angels or exploding or crumbling to bits under the power and wrath of God. That, of course, goes beyond what the text teaches, and going beyond the text of Scripture is never a good idea. Their languages confused by an act of God—a sudden act of God, it seems, not unlike the original creation—the people could no longer communicate. So they simply “left off building” their ambitious, self-serving project and began to disperse (as God dispersed them) in all directions, doubtless with the people whose language they could understand. It’s interesting to note how subtly and graciously God intervened to “redeem” (if only temporarily) this situation from the hubris of men. No famines, flames, or floods. He simply confused their languages. God introduced a new cultural convention to free men from their hubris and set them on a course more agreeable to His redemptive plan. The world’s languages today bear many striking similarities. This is because they are the unique property of the image-bearers of God (whales and dolphins do not have a subjunctive mood; nor can they translate), and they all derive from one common root of language.

The Structure: How ominous is that “this is only the beginning of what they will do”? Human beings are powerful creatures, especially because of their culture-making ability. As the history of our sinful race develops, human beings will use their culture-making capabilities for good and for evil. The people of Moses’ day are to understand that God intends culture to be for His glory, to honor Him and serve our neighbors. His Law, given at Mt. Sinai, would make that most explicit.

Eating and drinking—whatever we do in or with culture—all for the glory of God. How can we be sure we’re using our cultural activities for God’s glory?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
A Name for Ourselves?


Genesis 11:1-4
1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The Story: It’s not clear whose idea this was; therefore, we go wrong if we ascribe it to Nimrod. As we’ve seen, he was all about expanding to other places and peoples. Now certain persuasive visionaries from among the people decide that it would be a good idea to centralize power and keep everyone together under one rule and language and culture. Everyone spoke the same language at this time, so it was fairly easy to communicate the plans and vision of the elite. They would use their culture-making skills to “make a name” for themselves. At the center of their hubris would be this massive tower, reaching to the heavens, which men would use, presumably, to offer sacrifices to “God” and to get Him – however they may have regarded Him – to do their bidding. We can see here the memory of Noah’s altar, now enlarged many times over to become a huge tower. The people had a memory of God and His purposes, but they were intent on redefining themselves – without “forgetting” God – on terms more agreeable to them. Bad leadership is all too often powerfully persuasive. God said fill the earth; the leaders said, “Let’s stay put.” God said, “Call upon Me.” The leaders said, “Let’s make a name for ourselves.” Noah had let culture get the best of him, and now his descendants were preparing to do the same. They would put the good gifts of God to bad use in order to fill themselves with their own glory and become drunk with their visions, plans, and creations. And they would do this as a substitute for God’s call to “be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

The Structure: The people of Moses’ day were not to miss the point: God means what He says, and He’s not open to our “big ideas” when they lead us to substitute for His revealed will.

Has God spoken in His Word about what it means to follow Jesus? To build His church? To make disciples? How confident are you that your church leaders are following the Lord’s Word in these areas?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
History Preview


Genesis 10:1-32
32These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

The Story: Another “time-out.” Time to regroup and chart the progress of the human race following the flood. How best to do that in a short space? A genealogy. And that’s what we get in chapter 10. The previous genealogy (chapter 5) was a record of the past, taking us from Adam to Noah. This one is a record into the future, taking us from Noah to Israel in Moses’ day. The family trees of Noah’s sons given here are meant to bridge the gap between them and the people of Israel in Moses’ day. In them we encounter many names which would have been familiar to the people of Moses’ day, names that were once heads of families but had become nations by the time of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. We also receive a bit of foreshadowing toward chapter 11 and the episode of the tower of Babel. Nimrod generally gets a bad rap from commentators, since he was the founder of Babel and related places (vv. 8-10). He expanded from there into many other places, indicating that he was spreading his rule out to other peoples who were scattering from the vicinity of Mt. Ararat to all points on the compass (vv. 11, 12). My sense is that Nimrod was a worshiper of the God of Noah, even though he was a descendant of Ham. The phrase “before the Lord” should be understood as describing his approach to life. He was a “great” man, a “mighty” hunter, but that word is not necessarily a pejorative. I think his story here is included for two reasons. First, to show us that even among those from whom God’s covenant was being withheld for a season, grace could establish a beachhead. This would be important, of course, for the long-term development of God’s covenant and redemption. The Israelites would need to know this when it came to Moses’ marriage to a Midianite woman and Rahab and her request to be included in the blessings of God. But, second, the story of Nimrod reminds us of the staying power of sin. What Nimrod began, perhaps with the best of intentions, will be corrupted by chapter 11. People of God: be on guard against sin!

The Structure: These genealogies would have been particularly helpful to the people of Moses’ day in understanding who they were among all the nations familiar to them, as well as the ones they were going to displace. All these people were descendants of Noah, and all had vague but corrupted memories of God, the flood, and their reason for being on earth. They had turned from God to idols, thus proving their unworthiness to know His blessings. But Israel was just as unworthy as they – and Moses would be at pains to remind them of this. The difference between Israel and all the other nations? Grace, and the promises of God (Deut. 7:6-11).

Is there a connection between living “before the Lord” and becoming a “great” or “mighty” person? What does it mean for you to live “before the Lord” throughout the day?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Cursed and Blessed


Genesis 9:22-29
22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. 24When Noah awoke from his wine hand knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

26He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.

27
May God enlarge Japheth,
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

The Story: The people of Israel in Moses’ day were preparing to embark on a long journey across a vast wilderness, living in close quarters with one another. I’ll come back to that in a bit. People probably know inherently that looking on the nakedness of certain other people is not right. Adam and Eve felt shame upon realizing they were naked. Historically, looking on the nakedness of the wrong people has been considered a breach of privacy; those who enticed others to do so were considered immodest, and thought to be on a slippery slope toward immorality, if not immoral already. Noah was drunk and naked in his tent. His son, Ham, saw his nakedness, or perhaps, “looked” upon his naked father in his shame. That was bad enough. But then he went and told his brothers. Rather than conceal his father’s shame, and thus show him a certain kind of honor, he exposed him, so to speak, and multiplied Noah’s sin. Had Ham seen his father naked, covered him, and kept quiet about it, how might history have been different? This is why the deed of Shem and Japheth is so commendable. Knowing the situation and knowing what needed to happen, they made sure not to allow themselves to fall into sin as they approached dealing with this shameful situation. Love covers a multitude of evils. When Noah came to his senses and understood what had transpired, he pronounced a curse on the son of Ham, to make it clear that the blessings of God’s covenant were being revoked against Ham and his descendants. This would not be a permanent revocation, merely a temporary one. But it would be a significant one, which has had ramifications far beyond Biblical times. Shem and Japheth now are chosen as the special objects of God’s “tabernacling” grace.

The Structure: Fairly significant sections of the Law of God given on Mt. Sinai are proscriptions against looking on the nakedness of others. As Jesus knew, looking can lead to lust, can lead to impurity in the heart, can lead to sin, can lead to more and worse sin still. The people of Israel were thus warned by this episode to take seriously the Law of God as they traveled in close quarters toward the land of Canaan. We can see God assembling the bricks for the foundation of Law His covenant people will require if they are to be safe and to prosper in the land of promise.

Are we just being prudish to warn against looking on the unclothed or scantily-clothed bodies of others? Why or why not?

Genesis 1-12 begins the story of God’s covenant and redemption. For a fuller exposition of this story, order a copy of the book, Far As the Curse is Found, by Michael D. Williams, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth—the Framework of Christian Worldview—using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
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