This is a condensed transcript of my June 26, 2011 sermon.
What’s your story? Or better yet: What story are you living? What story are you allowing to define you? As followers of Jesus, we share the same history…the same story. But are we allowing it to shape us? If not, we will be susceptible to other stories shaping us, and we will not live in the victory, experience the peace, nor be a blessing like God has designed us to be.
The Bible is the story of us. It’s our story. The history of God’s people is our history too, and knowing this is vital to our present and future. As I get older, I have a growing desire to know where I came from, and so the last time my parents visited, I asked them to tell us about their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I wanted my kids to hear this too so that they would know where they came from as well. They heard my dad tell about how his dad had fought in World War II and watched as Mussolini was hanged. They heard my mom share how her dad was a driver for the first public bus company in Ohio. He drove a bus that was made of wood! My dad revealed that his grandfather was a baptist minister – something that greatly interested me seeing that this is what I am too! I believe that it’s vital for us and our children to know from whom we’ve come in order to help us know why we are who we are.
More importantly, I believe that it is essential for us to know and understand the story of God and His people as chronicled in the Bible. All human beings have been created by God and made in His image, and as we will see, God desires to be in relationship with His image-bearers. The Old Testament records God’s loving and relentless pursuit of His chosen people and His desire for His people to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. The New Testament reveals God’s ultimate love for all people through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who paid the penalty for man’s sin once and for all…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Because this story is so important, let me start at the beginning.
In the beginning, God created… These are the first words of the Bible, and they serve as the opening scene of the opening act of our story. God created the world and then He created man – the only beings made in His image. Man is given the mandate to rule, which is displayed in Adam (the first man) given the task of naming the animals. God says that if man obeys His mandate and does what they’ve been purposed to do, they will be blessed. However, if man chooses instead to throw off the purpose and reign of God by disobeying Him, then the result will be curses and death. Of course, like with any good story, a major conflict occurs. Sin makes it’s nasty appearance through a corrupted created being named Satan. He tempts Adam and Eve to throw off God’s reign in their lives, and sadly, they give in. Their mutiny against God’s reign resulted in God’s perfect creation being destroyed. This was not just true for man but for ALL creation. Everything God created was wrecked by sin. The Bible says that because of sin, all creation is “groaning” under the weight of sin. This is our story; it’s a story marred by sin and rebellion toward our Creator.
The initial sin of Adam and Eve begins to ripple out, and it’s effects are widespread and devastating. When the gates of Eden close behind Adam and Eve, they do not cease to be what God has created. They remain in the image of God, but how they are human is deeply affected. So too is it with us. Our sin and rebellion deeply impacts how we live our lives and carry out God’s purpose for us as well. Adam and Eve go on living, and Eve gives birth (painfully because of the curse) to two healthy sons. They are a family – just as God designed things before the fall. But as we move through their story (which is part of our story too), we soon see that the terrible change in the story is apparent.
Cain, one of Adam and Eve’s sons, commits an abhorrent sin: he kills his brother. Eventually, Cain has his own son and names him Enoch, which marks the beginning of another family as God has designed it, but the story of Cain and his family demonstrates clearly that humans – after the fall – have a terrible capacity to misdirect their lives. Cain builds a large city and names it after his son, Enoch. But, he is corrupt and so his corruption is at the foundation of the city. In Genesis 6:11-12, a summary is given of where things stand not long after the sin of Adam and Eve: Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. Corruption and violence reign the world, so God decides to start again. But, because of His love and mercy for His created image-bearers, He decides to save a people and protect them with His presence.
God’s Judgment and Mercy
The God of our story is a God of justice, but He’s also a God of redemption and rescue, rescuing His people from sin and its effects. God chooses to save a man named Noah – along with his family – from His coming judgment and wrath upon the earth. God instructs Noah to build an enormous boat that will protect him, his family, and two of every living creature on earth from the onslaught of water. After the flood subsides, God renews his covenant with man through Noah, and in so doing, He fulfills what He always intended for creation – to rule and to be in relationship with Him. In Genesis 9:1-3, it says, And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
God Helps Man Fill The Earth
Sadly, Noah’s descendants did not “fill the earth” as God instructed. They decided to stay put and go up rather than out. In ancient Mesopotamia, people would build towers as part of their temples devoted to false gods. Most towers had a large staircase which led to a room at the top. This room contained a bed, a table, and fresh food so that the god could rest before he come down to earth. Most likely, this was the kind of tower that the people built in the account of the tower of Babel. In Genesis 11:4, the people say, “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.” This was done in direct defiance of God’s covenant to fill the earth. The people didn’t want to, so they built a large city and erected a tower, hoping to make God happy with them. He was not. Genesis 11:5-9 says, And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And 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. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore 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.
God Renews His Covenant Again
So, finally, mankind is dispersed all over the earth as God designed it. God then renews His covenant with mankind through one man: Abraham. God tells Abraham to give up everything that the people of Babel were not willing to give up…and he does! Genesis 12:1-3 says, Now 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. 2 And 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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God renews His covenant with Abraham, but notice that God tells Abraham that He will bless Him so that he and his descendants will be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” God’s design from the beginning is to bless His created image-bearers with his presence and love, and even though sin is now rampant, God’s purposes will not be thwarted.
This is our story. It’s a story that begins with a loving Creator. It’s a story that has been marred and twisted by sin. But it’s a story that is overwhelmed by the love and redemption of the Creator for His image-bearing creation (us!). In the coming weeks, I’ll explore more of the story with you, and we’ll see over and over again that our story is shaped by a God who loves us and will go to unbelievable lengths to rescue us from our sin. Will you allow this story to shape you?
Artwork: #1 by Regis Friend-Cassidy; #2 by James Schlavin.