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Archive for July, 2013

Nephilim | Genesis 6:1-4

Genesis 1_11WEDNESDAY
Reflection 33 of 55

REFLECT
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.  Genesis 6:1-4 | ESV

RECEIVE
Sons of God. Daughters of men. 120 years. Nephilim. Men of renown. Yes, these would be some of those tantalizing layers of mystery and meaning from a shrouded past before the Flood. Such mystery invites us to sacred savoring and exploring – but we much prefer to defile it with manageable and reasonable explanations (more residue of Cain’s way). Such sacred explorations have typically followed along three paths when it comes to this whole “sons of God seeing the daughters of men and taking any of them as wives as they so desired” business: (1) the godly line of Seth becoming corrupted by Cainite women (an exploration favored by the likes of Luther and Calvin); (2) angelic beings who “left their proper place” and attempted cohabitation with human females, magnifying the destructive momentum of humanity ad infinitum (an explanation favored, seemingly by the likes of Peter and Jude in 2 Peter 2:4-5 and Jude 1:5-7); or (3) a dynasty of tyrants who succeeded Lamech and made a royal mess of everything (an explanation suggested by more contemporary voices, some pointing to Psalm 82 as a reference). So which is it? Or is it a combination of more than one or even all three? All three can marshal solid evidence from Hebrew grammar and other textual support. So perhaps we shouldn’t belabor the point and simply try to get the point of the Story. Despite the positive momentum of Seth’s line, the mess got (and gets) messier – which continues to be distressing to all “children of Seth” who strive to foster such positive momentum in the mess of today’s world. For every Enoch that walks with God there are multiplied tyrants who do as they please, take whom they want, kill whom they will, and build as they wish. It is the impostor kingdom of darkness that rules by acquisition and brutal power, on whose forehead is inscribed veni, vidi, vici. It comes, it sees, it conquers. But just as all seems to be swirling out of control with no justice, no relief, no redemption, another Kingdom tips its hand. In a repeat of Genesis 1, God again sees, and it’s not good. He won’t let this train wreck continue to wreak its havoc. He serves notice. 120 years worth of notice. And then the Landlord will pull the plug. Quite literally. So, yes, it’s antediluvian history shrouded with mystery, but it’s a story still as relevant as our own headlines. The limits of our cultural train wreck will likewise be revealed in time, as will our personal role in it. The question is are we part of the tyrannical chorus of acquisition and self-assertive destruction, or will we be revealed as those who are an oasis of comfort and quiet in the midst of all the mess? Are we falling Nephilim or are we Noahs who quite literally rise above it all?

RELATE
So how about it? Are you a “falling Nephilim” who aspires to be great and renowned as a mover/shaker /taker in this world? Are you a Noah who brings comfort to others rises above it all? How does it show?

RESPOND
God, let me be one through whom comfort comes into the mess of this day. Let your breath of life come through me into each hurt, each break, each fracture I encounter this day. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

Clay_Feet


He walked with God | Genesis 5:21-32

Genesis 1_11TUESDAY
Reflection 32 of 55

REFLECT
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died. When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Genesis 5:21-32 | ESV

RECEIVE
They provide an instructive contrast, these two: Cain’s Lamech and Seth’s Enoch. Both were the seventh from Adam. But while Lamech married his multiple wives and immortalized his self-preservation and violence in song, Enoch “walked with God.” Cain’s line (spoiler!) might have been extinguished in the flood, but the way of Cain remains the way the world does business. The way we do business. The way of Cain is that of self-made humanity; of self-promotion and celebration; of building, achievement and accomplishment; of the attempted immortalization of ourselves through what we build and name after ourselves and our children. The way of Seth first most clearly surfacing in Enoch and then in much fuller relief in Noah, is one of quite apparent weakness. Foreshadowed in Abel (“Insignificant”) who offered a pleasing sacrifice to God, and Enosh (“Weakness”) in whose day people “began to call on the name of the Lord,” we see in Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the crest of the momentum of Seth’s line in this time before the Flood. What did he do? He walked. It’s as if in Enoch we reach back into the garden, before that tree, before the snake, before that bite, and once again, we see humanity enjoying a simple, life-giving walk with Creator. The first Bible of the early church, the Greek Septuagint, actually translated the Hebrew “walked” with “pleased” – the very same Greek word used in the Gospels in that heavenly pronouncement over Jesus: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” At the heart of such walking is a pleasing intimacy and fellowship, and this is what Enoch experienced. In fact, he experienced this to such a degree that one day he was simply gone – one of only two in the Old Testament story arc who are said not to have experienced death. If the “glory of God is man fully alive,” Enoch was clearly alive. And this, by the way, is the reason for the long ages. Many stumble at that, but the author (authors) of Genesis unashamedly report and treat all of this as history – though undoubtedly there is symbolism in the numbers as well as the names. Genesis is a masterful narrative rooted in the unfolding of history while simultaneously tantalizing us with layers of deeper symbolism and meaning. Whatever we think of the long age spans (and if you think these are wild, contemporary genealogical lists of Sumerian kings are quite literally off the chart with each ancient king living tens of thousands of years!), the point in this Story is simple. Whereas Cain’s generations are not marked by notations of years lived and sons and daughters birthed and enjoyed, Seth’s line, generation after generation enjoyed a fullness of both. Long life is not always a guarantee (just ask Enoch if you can find him); but full life is the hallmark of those who walk with God.

RELATE
Are you breathlessly running “in the way of Cain,” or finding your stride in a meaningful “walk with God” like Enoch? What would you say is the key to moving from the former to the latter?

RESPOND
Lord, you have come “that we might have life and have it to the full.” Deliver me from the death-dealing ruts of the way of Cain in this world and launch me into a full, rich, life-giving walk with you. Guard my head, Lord – and keep my feet. Through Christ.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

generations


Generations | Genesis 5:1-20

Genesis 1_11MONDAY
Reflection 31 of 55

REFLECT
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died. When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died. When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died. When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died. When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch fathered Enoch. Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.  Genesis 5:1-20 | ESV

RECEIVE
Genealogies. They don’t exactly make riveting reading for us, nor do we typically imagine them to the be the stuff of best selling devotions (to my knowledge, no one has ever tried to publish a book of devotions derived from the genealogies of the Bible – I can see it now: Generations Calling). Of all the things for the Genesis author (or authors) to blank, the genealogies would be one of them most of us wish they had. But these genealogies serve a crucial purpose – and that purpose actually has little to do with the use we often make of them as a set of chronological clues to help us calculate the age of the earth and satisfy our curiosity. Such genealogies as we encounter here in Genesis 5 actually serve to propel the story of Genesis forward and to provide some key relational links. Such a “linear” genealogy as meets us in Genesis 5 were used by the ancients to demonstrate “the legitimacy of an individual in his office or to provide an individual of rank with connections to a worthy family of individual of the past” (M.D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies). In this case, it’s the legitimacy and claim of Noah representing the one through whom God will “rule the earth” and “crush the serpent’s head.” Those two themes are where this Story is going, and Adam had three sons who potentially could have picked up that baton. But Abel was killed, and Cain wandered off to his own path of self-preservation and performance. Genesis 4 provides us with ten names in the unfolding history of Cain – seven generations from Adam with three sons listed as emanating from Cain’s descendant Lamech, who, as the pinnacle of Cainan development, brings both cultural achievement and human devaluation to new highs – and lows. Stay tuned to Genesis 6 to see that thread fully unravel. Genesis 5 presents us with the line of the third son of Adam: Seth. Ten more names. Ten generations. All culminating in Noah with his own three sons, who functions much as another Adam on the precipice of planetary rebirth. Each generation serves as a ripple, bequeathing both life and death as the inheritance of humanity, but the rippling of Adam’s line through Seth leads us to radically different shores from the violent ripples of Cain. Perhaps this is a key reason why our judgment has to take place at the end of time: it will take generations upon generations to fully observe the effects, for good or ill, of each of our rippling lives…

RELATE
What do you know of your ancestors – those whose lives have rippled into yours? How is your own life rippling forward? How can you live today in such a way that your life ripples forward in life-giving ways?

RESPOND
Lord, give me the grace not to be enslaved to the worst of my past, known and unknown to me; but to take the best that you have in it and through it, and to ripple that forward into an unstoppable tsunami of your grace and mercies leaving only life in its wake. Through Christ.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

generations


Divine Spark | Genesis 4:25-26

Genesis 1_11FRIDAY
Reflection 30 of 55

REFLECT

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Genesis 4:25-26 | ESV

RECEIVE
“And Adam knew his wife again.” Murder and tragedy did not become the terminal point for Adam. He knew his wife again. She bore a son again. And in the bearing she saw a fresh Divine appointment, a new turn of blessing. And one turn led to another, as her newly placed son (“Placed” is not a bad translation of the name “Seth”) has his own son in turn. Significantly this son is named “Enosh” – which becomes another common Hebrew word for “human being.” Unlike “Adam” which means “human being” as a creation of the ground and dirt (Hebrew adamah) – i.e. Earthling, “Enosh” means “human being” as a creation subject to weakness, sickness, and frailty – i.e. Weakling. And while most of us wouldn’t counsel new parents to name their son “Weakling,” isn’t it revealing that while Cain who was Gain, the man of Profit, spawns a race of successful overachievers who are filled with themselves, it is the Weakling who gives birth to a tribe that calls on the name of the Lord? What a delightful anticipation of the beatitude of Jesus: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” What an illustration of the Apostle Paul’s key life lesson that God’s “strength is made perfect in weakness.” It is in naming and claiming our poverty, our hollow, frail and sickly human state that we become vessels ready to be filled with the Divine. It is in embracing our dryness that we find tinder for the Divine Spark of life. Gain has the more impressive resume, but Weakling becomes the place where God dwells.

RELATE
How can tragedy in your life instead of being a dead end become the launching pad to new discoveries, new life? Where do you need to experience a new turn right now?

RESPOND
God, thank you for putting your divine treasures in frail earthen vessels. Thank you for being the divine spark in this so often touch-and-go venture called “my life.” Dwell here. Instead of looking out for myself, give me the grace to call on your name today. Through Christ.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

abel found


Seventy Times Seven | Genesis 4:17-24

Genesis 1_11THURSDAY
Reflection 29 of 55

REFLECT
Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”  Genesis 4:17-24 | ESV

RECEIVE
So, wandering Cain wanders off to the land of Wandering, wife in tow (and the fact that Cain’s wife is mentioned without background or explanation can either confound you as to where she came from – simple answer, “her mother” – or delight you as you as you observe an author at work who seems to feel no compulsion whatsoever to fill in the blanks that we obsess over; perhaps there’s a lesson here), and perhaps at least one son (was he born before or after Cain was exiled? The text doesn’t say – ancient narrators typically didn’t fixate on chronology in weaving their tales) and he and his clan become builders. Inventors. Craftsmen. Artisans. God planted a garden. Man built a city. Cain’s clan was a clan of achievers who took the world and its elements in their hands and forged their destiny. They would have been on the cover of Time and Forbes. But there’s usually a darker side to success stories, isn’t there? And Cain is no exception. Yes, he was a survivor. Yes, his family built and invented and created. But they were also killers. Cain passed on a legacy that devalued human life, expressed in more killing and more wives. Woman, the powerful ally and partner is reduced to property subject to a husband’s will. How telling that one of the earliest pieces of poetry in the Bible is Lamech’s poetic ode to his two wives about his killing exploits – all evidently covered by God, because, after all, if Cain is avenged seven fold, then Lamech will be avenged seven fold – and then another seventy fold after that! To look at the civilization of Cain is to look at our own – of whatever time and place. We all bear the genetic strain of Cain. And then Christ comes, and stepping out of the city, steals Lamech’s line. “How often shall I forgive my brother? Until seven times?” “I tell you not until seven times, but until seven times plus seventy more.” A new strain. A new city with a new foundation, “whose builder and maker is God.” And so as Augustine posed the question so many centuries ago, is it the city of man or the City of God that we seek? Is it the strain of Cain or of Christ that we will embrace? Is it the seventy times seven of forgiveness and grace in which we will live and move and find our being, or that darker tally of vengeance?

RELATE
Be honest with yourself. Are people obstacles or resources for you to either use or eliminate (okay, hopefully not literally, but you get the point), or are they creations of God to see, value, and embrace – and how does the way you live your life show it?

RESPOND
God, let it be the strain and presence of Christ in me that shapes me and how I choose to respond to life and to the people I encounter today. Give me eyes to see others not as obstacles in my path but as reflections of your beauty adorning my way. Rather than building up my personal empire, let my life be given to building up others. Through Christ.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

abel found


Marked Man | Genesis 4:9-16

Genesis 1_11WEDNESDAY
Reflection 28 of 55

REFLECT
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Genesis 4:9-16 | ESV

RECEIVE
Cain was “of the Evil One.” Cain hated his brother. Cain killed his brother. And while not a word of recorded dialogue passes between righteous Abel and God (who knows, perhaps their relationship transcended words), this story is filled with dialogue between Cain and God. We can debate what it was about Cain’s offering that caused it to be at the very least a lackluster service, but we can’t argue over God’s love and concern for Cain. God seeks him out, asks why he’s depressed, encourages him that he can overcome the darker inclinations at work within him, and then confronts him with the enormity of his crime after he kills his brother. There is no summary execution. In fact, there’s no execution at all! The same God who later will tell Noah, “whoever sheds man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed” now staunchly rejects such a penalty in Cain’s case, promising even greater consequences if anyone should kill Cain. This leaves us with two primal and contradictory examples in answering our own questions about capital punishment, but more to the point, it provides a remarkable example of the love and compassion of this God we are just getting to know from these Genesis pages. A harsh, arbitrary, despotic judge doesn’t take time to reassure a criminal. But God does. Yes, Cain was sent away from the Garden, away from God’s face. Yes, he was to be thereafter a fugitive and a wanderer. And this may have been for his own good, his survival, as much as anything else. Another testament to the fact that where “sin abounds, grace super-abounds.” God, an ogre? No. God is a lover.

RELATE
“Where sin abounded, grace super-abounded.” What has been the clearest example of this that you have witnessed?

RESPOND
God, remind me today of the creative ways in which you can and do take the worst turns of life and transform them into unimaginable opportunities of grace. Give me eyes to see the grace today. Through Jesus.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

abel found


Murder | Genesis 4:8

Genesis 1_11TUESDAY
Reflection 27 of 55

REFLECT
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:8 | ESV

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine. Matthew 5:21-26 | MSG

RECEIVE
“Don’t be like Cain, who was of the Evil One and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:14).” Such is John’s rather succinct diagnosis of Cain’s heart and the dynamics underlying the first murder in recorded history. It’s often noted that the first murder took place in the context of worship – a fittingly ironic observation that has continued to reverberate through every age, culture, and continent. Cain has a large tribe. And while many of us may immediately pride ourselves in never having actually killed anyone in disputes over worship or anything else, John doesn’t let us off so easily: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” And just when we are about to protest that we don’t really hate anyone, he interrupts with the final blow to our self-righteous protest: “Anyone who has the goods and sees his brother in need of them but who then shuts up his compassion for him and does nothing – how does God’s love live there?” Jesus tag teams with John (as if we needed any more conviction here!): “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment (I love that many scribes inserted “without cause” after “angry,” as if to say, “Please, let me have the luxury of guilt-free anger when he really deserves it!”); anyone who insults, demeans, and condemns his brother is only sealing his own fated judgment.” Yes, we kill through our looks, through our insults, through our libels, our gossip, our apathy, our indifference. Now, the point of this reflection is not to pile a steaming hot load of guilt on us all first thing in the morning to accompany our coffee. It’s to serve notice, particularly to our more righteous, devout and worshiping selves, that there’s more than one way to earn the mark of Cain. He was a God-seeking worshiper, too. And his devout worshipful existence became the devil’s deadly killing ground. It’s some good introspection to hold on to – especially the next time we are clamoring for the death sentence on a convicted killer. In one way or another, we all share that cell, don’t we?

RELATE
When it comes to anger and grievances, how good are you at keeping “short accounts”? Are there any disputes or grievances that are calling out for resolution right now? How will you move towards reconciliation, at least within yourself?

RESPOND
God, give me the grace to keep short accounts; to handle my anger in more healthy and productive ways, lest in burying my anger I only end up burying friendships and precious, life-giving relationships; lest in burying my anger I only succeed in burying myself. Have mercy, Lord. Through Christ.

For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.

abel found