Monday, January 8, 2018

God's Grace Through the Ages

Text: Genesis 6:5-8 KJV

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

 God’s Salvation didn’t begin with Noah and his family, it has been with us from the time the very first sin was committed in the Garden and will remain with us throughout all eternity.

I will show how God applied His Saving Grace in four instances and tell how you can find this Great Grace still today.

Grace in the Garden, Genesis 3:1-21, NIV:

1.     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’?”
2.     The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 
3.     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.’”
4.     “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 
5.     “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6.     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. 
7.     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.
8.     Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 
9.     But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10.  He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11.  And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12.  The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13.  Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14.  So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust all
the days of your life.
15.  And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”
16.  To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
  with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.”
17.  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
      through painful toil you will eat food from it all the
days of your life.
18. It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19. By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
    until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
    for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”
20. Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
21. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

I know many of us know this story from our youth. Eve was deceived by Satan who appeared as a serpent in the Garden. Adam and Eve, through their disobedience, learned of their nakedness and were ashamed, so they thought to cover themselves with what was handy – some leaves from a fig tree. They must have needed a lot of them, for fig leaves are small by comparison to a human body. God knew of their sin and punished them, but before He sent them packing He gave them a promise of His plan of Salvation and covered them in His grace when He clothed them with the skins of the first animals sacrificed for that purpose.

Adam taught His children of God’s great love and of His plan of Salvation to come. I believe that he also taught them how best to honor and serve God and what to bring Him as a proper sacrifice – a broken heart and contrite nature. I believe we see this in the offerings given by his sons, Cain and Abel. Cain came with an offering from his crops, but his heart wasn’t in it, so he gave his gift in rebellion. But Abel gave a gift of love, the best that he had among his flocks.
Therefore Abel accepted and received God’s grace but Cain rejected it and ran from God all of his days

 Grace Through the Storm and the Flood, Genesis 6:1-6, KJV:

1.     And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2.     That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3.     And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
4.     There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
5.     And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6.     And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

I know we have all heard that the ‘sons of God’ mentioned here are angels who came to earth and saw how beautiful the daughters of men were and decided to take them as wives, thus creating the giants. But as I was reading my daily chronological Bible this week I read a portion of the commentary that just makes more sense to me than the traditional explanation we have been given. So I will quote it here:
            “In the accounts of Seth, Cain and their descendants is a hint that two distinct groups of people have been developing. Those descending from Seth – Enoch, for example – were apparently people who lived righteous before God. On the other hand, those descending from Cain, as typified by Lamech the murderer, appear to have degenerated into unrighteousness. Therefore, although there might be found individual exceptions within these two families, it can generally be assumed that Sethites were godly people and the Cainites ungodly. At this point, however, the record seems to indicate that “the sons’ of God”, perhaps referring to the Sethites, or in any event to those who have a God-fearing heritage, now begin to intermarry with the “daughters of men,” not because they are righteous, but only because they are physically attractive. The apparent result is that such a mixture of the godly and the ungodly leads to the obliteration of moral distinctions and righteous living.”

But, as we read in our text, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah lived a life of true righteousness before God, so God gave him and his family – eight souls in all – a plan of Salvation from the annihilation of mankind and the destruction of the earth. He told Noah to build a ship – an arc of His great grace – to save himself, his sons and all of their wives.

Oh, the ridicule they must have suffered at the hands – or rather the mouths – of their neighbors. There had never been rain on earth before the promised Flood came. There was never such a large boat constructed before either, so his neighbors laughed out loud … that is until they could laugh no more. For all of Noah’s laughing neighbors disappeared in the torrential flooding that came just seven days after he and his family entered into the arc.

Could more people have entered into God’s ship of Grace? I believe they could have, for God doesn’t choose for anyone to perish. He prays that all would seek His salvation, they just had to believe their need for salvation and receive God’s grace.

Grace in the Wilderness, Exodus 14:

We all know the story of the Exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt. So for sake of time, I will not read this chapter. But in Exodus chapter 14, it tells us how God made a path through the sea and the Israelites walked across on dry ground. It also tells how the Egyptians followed them out onto that dried ocean floor and were slaughtered by the Lord for their trouble there in the sea. For He buried them under the waters He had held back for His people. This was His provision of Grace to Israel after they had suffered 400 years of bondage under many Egyptian rulers after the death of Joseph. As they prepared for their great escape, God gave them specific instructions of what their final meal would be in Egypt, of what to wear and what take with them – including the wealth they were to take from the hands of the Egyptians, their former captors. And what they were to remember about their escape … what to teach future generations. For all of these things were the foretelling of His Eternal gift of Grace to mankind. The told of Messiah to come. They told of Jesus and His gift of grace to all who would believe.

God’s Final Gift of Grace, Jesus:

Luke tells us of the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah, in chapter two of his gospel. How Mary went with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem to register for the census and pay the tax Caesar had decreed. His birth was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promised grace. Grace came about 33 years later during the Passover celebration in Jerusalem when He was sacrificed on the cross for the sins of all mankind, was buried and spent three days and nights in the tomb and was gloriously resurrected at the end of that time.

Matthew 27:45-54, NIV

45.   From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 
46.  About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47.  When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48.  Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 
49.  The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50.  And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51.  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 
52.  and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 
53.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54.  When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

At the moment Jesus gave up His life for us, the Hand of God caused the curtain that separated the Holy place from the rest of the temple to be torn in two from the top to the bottom. If the curtain had ripped from the bottom up, people could have argued that a man had done the tearing. But no man could tear the Temple curtain as it was many layers of fabric and animal skins thick. However, being torn from the top, no man could have even attempted this feat ... only God Himself could meet this challenge.

This torn curtain of separation now allowed righteous men and women, of every race and culture, direct access to God without having to go through the priests and their rituals as written in the law. God’s grace, the Salvation given us by Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, made a way for us to enter in.

 Grace must be accepted and received:

We have only seen four of the many times that God granted grace to mankind. In every instance of God giving grace, it must be accepted and received by those to whom He has poured it out. Even in cases of a collective outpouring, the acceptance and receipt MUST BE by individual persons. No one can receive it for you or for me, each must accept it for themselves.

If Adam and Eve had not each accepted their covering of grace from God’s hand, the unaccepting one would have remained naked and ashamed.

If each person in Noah’s family had not accepted God’s Word at face value and received His grace inside the arc, they would have died in the flood.

If each man and woman of the children of Israel had not believed Moses, and ultimately God, as they escaped the from Egyptians there on the banks of the Red Sea, they would have died in that sea alongside their former captors without receiving His way of escape.

It is still the same today. God has NO grandchildren. No step-children. No other type of generational relations – only sons and daughters. Therefore, each person must make their own decision to accept or reject God’s grace by believing and receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
By the way, not accepting Him IS rejecting Him. Even putting off the choice for “someday” is a choice against God and His great grace.

And this is that gift of grace, Romans 6:22-23, NIV & 7:4-6, NET:

Romans 6:22-23

22. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 
23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 7:4-6

4. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you could be joined to another, to the one who was raised from the dead, to bear fruit to God. 
5. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful desires, aroused by the law, were active in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 
6. But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.

So my friends, if you haven't already accepted God's Way of Grace, stop now and ask Him to forgive your sin in repentance and receive His Salvation and His Great Grace.

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