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Be Fruitful and Multiply or Not

God’s way to blessing is the only way to blessing.
Lesson 24 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

– Genesis 9:1

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there…And they said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

– Genesis 11:1, 2&4

When the water finally subsided, the ark came to rest on a mountain, and the animals went their own way. And so it was that Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment of evil in the world, not because they were without sin, but because they believed God. And God blessed Noah and his sons and told them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill them earth. The number of Noah’s descendants increased greatly, but they remained as one people. They did not fill the earth as God commanded. Instead they built a city. Then they built a tower reaching to the heavens. God was not pleased.

– The HOPE, Chapter 4

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Have you ever longed for a fresh start? Well after the flood, Noah and his family experienced one of the most remarkable fresh starts in human history. They had a blank slate on which to begin a completely new story for their lives. And furthermore, God spoke a blessing of prosperity over them (Genesis 9:1,  7). God then promised never to destroy the world with a flood again …and He sealed His promise with the first rainbow (Genesis 9:13-15)!

What an opportunity for renewal. Unfortunately, it was never realized!

God told Noah and his family to fill the earth. Instead, they gathered in one place and built a city. They wanted to be one people in one place. But that is not what God wanted. In the next lesson we’ll see God’s response to their disobedience, but for today let’s reflect on how they could possibly have missed such an incredible opportunity to walk in the way of blessing!

According to God’s story, Noah and his family entered the ark on the second week of the 2nd month of the year. They left the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of the following year (Genesis 8:14-15). Assuming a lunar calendar of 365 days, Noah and his family could have been on the ark an entire year!1 Linger on that thought before moving on.

When they finally stepped off the ark, what were they feeling? What on earth did they see after everything had been under water for nearly a year? Was it a strange, horrifying sight, perhaps even surreal?

Of all people, Noah and his family should have been prepared to follow God no matter what they saw.

  •  In the entire world they alone had been preserved by God through the flood.
  •  They personally heard God and saw Him do amazing things.
  •  God pronounced a blessing on them that they should have fruitful lives.

Still, after radically trusting God and having experienced His faithfulness as they did, Noah’s family failed to do what God told them to do. Either they didn’t listen carefully or they listened, but didn’t obey. You’ve probably heard the saying that there is safety in numbers. Perhaps they stayed together because they were afraid. Whatever their reason, they disobeyed God. They did not attempt to fill the earth.

From today’s lesson, consider that:

  •  God wanted Noah and his family to prosper and “fill” the earth (Genesis 9:1). That was the way to discover God’s blessing. But the way to blessing may not have looked to them like a blessing. The people feared being “scattered” across the earth (Genesis11:4). The difference between “filling” the earth (as God commanded) and being “scattered” across the earth is primarily one of perspective: one of choosing or being forced.
  •  They wanted to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). That prideful motivation sounds a lot like the attitude that led to Satan’s downfall (Lesson 14).
  •  Even though they didn’t want to follow God, they still wanted to get to heaven. But they wanted to do it their way – by building a tower (Genesis 11:4).

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Safe Even Through Judgment

God’s means of salvation is the only means of salvation.
Lesson 23 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

– Gen 6:17-19

But there was a man named Noah who followed God. And God gave Noah detailed instructions to build a huge boat, called an ark. Then, God sent a male and female of every kind of animal to enter the ark. And after Noah and his family were inside the ark, God closed the door. Then God made it rain for forty days and nights, flooding the whole earth and destroying everything that lived on the earth. For one hundred and fifty days water covered the earth. But Noah and his family, and the animals, were safe in the ark. When the water finally subsided, the ark came to rest on a mountain, and the animals went their own way. And so it was that Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment of evil in the world; not because they were without sin, but because they believed God.

– The HOPE, Chapter 4

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

The story of Noah is nothing short of amazing. Skeptics call it a fable. Yet in ancient civilizations from every region of the world, stories of a global flood abound. H.S. Bellamy in Moons, Myths and Men estimates that there are over 500 flood legends worldwide.1

In the Bible this story is found in Genesis, Chapters 6–9. Volumes have been written on these chapters, but for the sake of our study today we will focus on three subjects.

    1. The judgment of God – the result of His holy character

 
In the previous lesson, we saw from Genesis 6:6 that God was deeply grieved over the sin of mankind. In Genesis 6:7 we read of God’s intent to “blot out” man from the face of the earth. At first, one might think that God’s intention to blot out man in verse 7 was motivated by His grief in verse 6. It might appear that God, becoming disappointed with man, somehow lost His patience. But is that really true?

We humans are often disappointed when our expectations are unmet. But God, who is not limited by the dimensions of time and space, knows the future (see verses in Lesson 6). What He expects is what happens. What happens is what He expected. So how could God be disappointed? Continue reading


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And God Was “Willing” to Be Grieved

His willingness to be grieved shows how much He loves you.
Lesson 22 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

– Genesis 6:5–6

The earth became filled with evil. And God was grieved!

– The HOPE, Chapter 4

Observe & Consider

In the previous lesson we considered how rapidly sin increased on the earth in the generations after Adam and Eve. Today we will consider God’s response to this as recorded in Genesis 6:6. But before we attempt to discover what God might say to us through this verse, let’s determine what it is not saying.

The phrase, “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth,” could be understood in a number of ways. For instance, a person might say, “I’m sorry I got myself into this mess.” And by that he would mean, “I wish I hadn’t done what I did to be in this situation,” or “If I had it to do over, I would do it differently.” Applying this line of thought, could we read Genesis 6:6 and reasonably conclude that God regretted doing what He had done, as if He had made a bad decision?

We cannot conclude such a thing, and here’s why. The Bible never contradicts itself. A verse should always be considered in light of the whole Bible, and when we look at what the whole Bible says about God we learn that:

  • His ways are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4). Creating man could not have been a mistake because God doesn’t make mistakes.
  • He knows everything (Psalm 139:16). God knew that He would have sorrow and grief over the sin of mankind, even before Adam and Eve were created.

So what is this verse saying to us? To say that God was sorry and that He grieved in His heart shows us that God has emotions. In fact, the Bible frequently ascribes emotions to God. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18). But who can really understand the emotions of God who is infinite? Continue reading


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How Quickly Sin Spreads

The need for a solution that outdistances the problem.
Lesson 21 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

– Genesis 4:8

Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.

– Genesis 6:11

As the descendants of Adam and Eve increased, so also, sin increased.

– The HOPE, Chapter 4

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

The science fiction movie, Alien1 told the story of a group of space travelers who came upon a planet that was inhabited by a vicious alien life form. After a terrifying encounter with the “alien,” it seemed that the crew might escape calamity and resume their journey unscathed. On the surface things appeared somewhat normal, but in reality the alien life form had invaded the body of one of the crew. And as the crew was having a meal together, when it was least expected, the alien life form which had been incubating inside the infected crew member ripped open his chest from the inside and burst across the screen.

As horrific as this cinematic illustration may be, it is not nearly so terrible as the “alien” power called sin that has infected mankind. Adam and Eve left the garden to try once again to fulfill God’s original directive to them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). But they were infected with sin, and though things “appeared somewhat normal,” they weren’t. Not even one generation passed before the ugliness of sin burst onto the scene. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son, Cain, savagely murdered his younger brother, Abel.

Within 11 generations (as listed in  Genesis 5), the earth “was corrupt in the sight of God, the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). And God “was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6).

As we consider the way sin so quickly spread in the world, let’s look at a simple illustration. Most people are familiar with dominos, little rectangular tiles with different numbers of dots on the face of each tile. And if you are familiar with dominos, then you have probably seen people line them up like little pillars all in a row. When the first domino is toppled, it sets off a chain reaction toppling the next domino, and so on and so on.

One of the largest displays of dominos ever to be toppled involved over 3.8 million dominos. It took 100 builders working 8 hours a day for 3 months to create the domino display. The display incorporated over 51 different interlinked projects; each one very complex and delicately balanced. Once the first domino was toppled, the chain reaction spread quickly in every conceivable direction. In a very brief matter of time, all that was left was a huge mess!

God created a world that is infinitely more complex, more interdependent, and more delicately balanced that that domino display. But like that display, even the smallest wrong move has the potential to send ripples of consequence throughout the creation for all time. It has been said that the smallest sin against an infinite God has infinite consequences.2 Continue reading


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Before There Is a Problem, God Has the Solution

God’s first promise of a Deliverer.
Lesson 20 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; on your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

– Genesis 3:14–15

And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

– Genesis 3:21

Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.

– Genesis 3:23–24

So God made for them garments of animal skin. This was an acceptable covering. But it was only a partial remedy, for it did not take away the sin…and though they could not understand it at the time, it was a picture of the price God would ultimately pay to free humankind from sin. God sent Adam and Eve out from the garden, lest they eat from the tree of life and walk the earth forever, never knowing life as it was meant to be. As for Satan, God pronounced a judgment on him. And in that judgment we find God’s first promise, that one day, through a descendant of Eve, God would send a deliverer to defeat Satan forever.

– The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Often in life, we must hear the bad news before the good news means something to us. The first four lessons in Chapter 3 dealt with some ugly stuff – Satan and sin. But in this, the final lesson of the chapter, we turn a corner. This section shows us (as we shall see throughout this study) that God has a beautiful plan that will not be thwarted.

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