Hi everybody! Hope everyone’s had a pleasant start to 2021. I’ve certainly enjoyed the first few days of the new year, which is a refreshing change from ALL of 2020! Part of the new year for me, has been spent going back to basics with Scripture. Just starting at the beginning with Genesis 1 and going from there. Of course we all have heard and know the creation story for Adam and Eve. But so far, my goals in studying Genesis have been threefold:
- Just enjoying taking in Scripture and realizing that God is speaking to me when I listen to it or read it.
- Studying other sources after I read certain chapters of it to see if there are any believable scientific explanations, or evidence for some of the occurrences to strengthen my faith.
- Trying to understand the lessons behind Scripture passages that I honestly didn’t understand before.
When I honestly keep those things in mind, and ask God to help me interpret what I read or hear in the right way, I am starting to realize how grand and beautiful the story is! One of the things that strengthens my faith right away is that Scripture is very relatable to me and resonates with me as a flawed human being. The Bible is not a story involving clean, pristine, perfect people. If it were, it would be a fairytale. I would never take it seriously. There’s only one completely clean person who shows up during the whole thing, and He doesn’t show up until much later 😉
The Bible is a story involving some deeply flawed, messy, sinful people. Exactly like you and I. And yet God does things for their own good, and performs great things through them. Particularly Noah and Abraham for where I currently am, in Genesis 12.
Tower of Babel
This morning, I listened to a couple chapters of Genesis, and tried to see what I could learn from them. When I go into it with the eagerness to learn something I didn’t understand before, that attitude boosts my enthusiasm and makes me more hungry to learn new things! Not to mention, I am recording the big things I learn on a note in the Notepad app in my phone. Hopefully I stick with it as I continue to study Scripture! But the two things I read about and heard about were the building now known as the Tower of Babel, and Abraham lying to the Pharaoh of Egypt to save himself and his wife Sarah.
The story of the Tower of Babel is interesting to me because it is presented as an origin story for why there are so many different languages in the world. That’s what I recognize it as. At least at face value. But when I dug deeper, I found another important lesson in it: Humility. The people who are building the Tower of Babel strike me as being too proud. Chapter 11, verses 3-4 says:
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.
But as the tower gets high enough into the sky, God says:
“If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
This reaction by God led me to interpret that He was putting a limit on mankind. Why? Who knows. But I think one of the reasons may have been to keep us humble. If mankind can do anything, know everything, and have no limits placed on us, we forget who is in charge, and lose sight of our place: as God’s creation. We are not gods ourselves. Without being kept in check, we become full of hubris, which is intense, foolish pride. And that never ends well. The thought that God puts necessary limits on us reminded me of two things: My own personal view on science, and Dr. Stephen Hawking’s “Theory of Everything.”
I have always respected those in the scientific community, and am grateful for all their discoveries, and the ones they continue to make every day. Because of their discoveries, our lives are becoming more full. However, I do not view their discoveries purely as a result of their own brilliance. And I say this based on my personal view on how I believe that God directs scientific discoveries.
To me, every time someone makes a scientific discovery, I see that as just one more thing that God has decided to reveal to mankind. Think of it like Hansel and Gretel. God lays down the breadcrumbs (tools to make the discovery, curiosity, and the brainpower to do so), and through their work, the discovery is eventually made. But the man upstairs was in charge of directing the process. Whether someone credits Him or not doesn’t matter.
Similarly, God reveals the secrets of the universe when we seek them earnestly. But there is no way we’ll know absolutely everything about how this vast universe works, like Stephen Hawking one day hoped we would. I view that as another limit God has placed on us. Perhaps for our own good.
Abraham: Trying to Survive
Intense pride in our own abilities and intelligence is definitely something that we all risk falling prey to if we do not stay humble and walk with God. But another human shortcoming was on display in the next chapter of Genesis I listened to: Fear, and doubting that God is in control of a situation. Especially when we can’t clearly see it.
After God had promised Abraham to make him great, and the father of all nations as a reward for his obedience to Him, God tells Abraham to go to Canaan, which will eventually become the home of Abraham and his people. Unfortunately, a severe famine struck the land, and Abraham and his wife Sarah were forced to move south to Egypt and ride out the famine.
As they approach Egypt, Abraham becomes fearful and tells Sarah to say that she is his sister instead of his wife since she is an extremely beautiful woman. I always used to find this odd, and never understood why he did it until today. But Abraham told Sarah to say this for one clear reason: He feared that if the Egyptians knew that Sarah was his wife, that they would kill him and the Pharaoh would take her for his wife since she was very beautiful. But because Sarah lies and tells the Pharaoh that she is Abraham’s sister, the Pharaoh does indeed try to take her to be his wife. This angers God, and He strikes the Pharaoh and all those closest to him with a severe sickness. The Pharaoh correctly thinks that this sickness is a divine punishment, and he sends both Sarah and Abraham on their way.
Abraham did what we all often do when he listened to his survival instinct instead of his faith in God. But God still made sure he and Sarah made it out of a dangerous situation unharmed. It is sometimes very hard to see how God is in control of a situation, especially when it is frightening or dangerous. But it is up to us to continue to try our best to have faith in Him, no matter what the situation looks like.
I may have only studied up to Genesis 12 so far, but it’s been fun and interesting! I used to be bored a lot of the time when it came to reading from the Bible. But it’s like God has given me a new pair of eyes with which to see, and mind and heart that truly tries to understand new things, instead of just glossing over stuff I might not like or agree with.
There are two habits I want to carry with me this new year: having greater faith in God in the midst of chaos, and learning more of the Bible that I do not yet understand. I am a deeply flawed Christian. A sinner who is broken and needs help. But I think seeking God by earnestly trying to study Scripture might be His way of lending me a helping hand. And he can do the same for you if you sincerely ask Him! Take care and God bless you all! 🙂