Saturday Feb 14, 2015

The Big Story - Part 2



Big Story - Act 2 - The Fall

with Roger Kirby


Question: what has been your biggest disappointment, the moment when something really special you had planned, or made, or hoped for did not work out and your dreams came crashing to the ground?

It seems rather extraordinary but that seems to be what happened to God, the Designer and Creator of all that is. He had planned and built the perfect world for Adam and Eve and their descendants, put them in the most perfect garden ever, and they – the two of them – had immediately spoiled it and brought the whole scheme crashing to the ground. I know we say God knows everything including the future but in the introduction to the story of the Flood we read that the LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled. God was disappointed – whatever the systematic theologians may say are his attributes.

Adam and Eve were the first to get it wrong and therefore most at fault. Genesis 3: 1 – 11 says: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die. ’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

So Paul says: sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people. But that is not the end of the problem. We have 3 more accounts of the sinful nature of people in the next 8 chapters. First: Cain and Lamech commit murder. Second: things get so universally bad that God sends the great Flood. Third: mankind, again in the plural, get so above themselves God has to organize the confusion of languages at Babel. Not a good set of stories!

But we need to start at the beginning. The story of Adam is important for many reasons. The one I would highlight as very significant but often overlooked is the fact that we are being told humankind started in just one place with just one person. Men and women did not become spiritual beings made in the image of God through the slow evolution and development of many people. No. Only one person, Adam, was created as a true fully human being. Because he was male there was a problem! In most ancient stories of the beginning of humanity the first person was female, which made things much easier because then others could be born from that first person. But Adam was male so Eve was made from his side. That is realistic because the human world is a male dominated world simply because men tend to be stronger than women. We may not like that – particularly if we are female – but that is the way it is. Only with Jesus, the way he treated women, and the early church, and the way they gave women an equal status with men, do we begin to see the raising of women towards equality with men. Then in the last few decades with the increasing sophistication of modern machinery needing brains and skills of dexterity rather than strength, women have started to equal men in their work place skills – but that is another story!

When Paul said “all have sinned” he made the most accurate statement ever of the nature of men and women. Sin and evil cover this world of ours as we can see from any daily newspaper or TV news bulletin. Some try to say mankind is getting better and better but there have been more terrible wars and more ghastly treatments of man by man in the last 100 years than ever before.

The Bible story continues with the murder of Abel by Cain. “Am I my brother’s keeper” asked Cain thinking the answer was “no”. Jesus pointed out that the much better answer is “yes” by telling the story of the Good Samaritan.

To emphasize that the problem was, and is, a worldwide problem we have the story of the Flood in Genesis chapters 6 to 8. Although, like Creation, that is much argued over, the message of the story is quite clear: sin and evil are a world wide problem and yet God has promised never again to deal with it on a worldwide basis. Our world will only come to an end when it is replaced by the new heavens and the new earth. Paul says: “the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

The fourth and final story of the descent of the human world into the mess of sin and evil that became its standard state is the story of Babel. The multiplication of languages is depicted in this striking image. Biblically the reversal of this commenced at Pentecost when we read in Acts 2 : “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God- fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they said we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”

Practically, on a world wide view not much changed – until now – leading to our present dependence on the World Wide Web and the consequent dominance of the English language.
So what?

We live in surprising and exciting days. Babel is not, and never will be, completely reversed. But in our lifetimes one language, English, has become more widely understood than any other ever has been since Babel. More people speak Mandarin or Spanish as their first language – their mother tongue as we call it – than do English. But the effect of the Internet has been that more people can now understand or even speak English than have ever been able to do so with any other language.

A good example of that is what you are listening to or watching right now. Dave Roberts is one of those who have caught the vision of what is possible today, in English, through his Partakers site. Make sure that you make the most of these opportunities. If your mother tongue is not English you may struggle a bit to follow all he, and we, say or write. Persevere – use a dictionary if we get above ourselves and use unusual words. Sorry!

Just one question – who do you share it with? It doesn’t matter if your translation is not perfect. Make the most of it you can. Turn it into the language of those of your friends who have less English than you have. Share the glorious news of the Good news of Jesus as much as you can and the LORD will bless your every word. WOW.


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