Monthly Archives: February 2016

Songs of ???

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Most Sundays we will watch a TV program called Songs of Praise and most weeks have varying degrees of “enjoyment” – quite often I can get a rough idea of how the program is going to go depending on who the presenter is and the “topic”

Sometimes unfortunately I wonder what relevance the program has to Christianity at all when they decide to “celebrate” some person or thing or event in history so was excited to see a couple of weeks ago that they were visiting an organisation which was close to our heart.  We watched eagerly and enjoyed the sections relating to our “friends” and the amazing work that God does there in changing lives, but we felt that the dynamic message was lost by the swapping backwards and forwards to other topics or a recording of a hymn which sometimes appeared to be being sung by people who were bored – probably because it was so rehearsed for the cameras with complex arrangements by a conductor that it was losing it’s meaning.

Some of the presenters we know have a shall we call it “strong faith” others, you wonder if they are just “presenting”.

As I said sometimes we wonder what the relevance of a song is, how is it considered to be worship? and sometimes it does not appear to have any meaning and it is merely a piece of music. Sometimes as in this weeks episode, we have what can only be described as the extreme opposite.  Cut to the scenes of a large gathering with musicians jumping up and down, lots of flashing lights, graphics,  and the congregation jumping up and down and this was being portrayed as “Modern Worship”

Now don’t get me wrong, jumping up and down and dancing and making loud music to worship God goes all the way back to the Old Testament when the Psalmist wrote:

Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him (Psalm 149 v 3)

Praise him with loud cymbals (Psalm 150 v 5)

I’m not sure if jumping up and down quite qualifies as “dancing” but then David danced and jumped around in 2 Samuel 6 v 16 (much to his wife’s disgust)

But this is not the reason in itself for my concern.

Many years ago (about 20+) my husband and I were involved in the music/worship team in our church (we still are now so know that it is impossible to please everyone with your choice of song or style of music) and one week someone else stepped in to lead as the person who usually led was away and we were in the congregation.  I think it was the first time that this particular person had lead and he had another person working with him.  Hubby and I were both shocked to realise that the congregation’s attitude appeared to us as “Oh!, X is not here today, so the worship is not going to be any good so I’m not going to bother”.  I tell you, both of us sang as loud and hard as we could, not only to make up for what we perceived as a lack of effort from the rest of the congregation, but to encourage the two people who were nervously giving their best to try and lead in worship and bring people into God’s presence.  We had been blessed previously with talented musicians and I had previously been in a much larger fellowship which had some “professional” level musicians, but we realised then that some people were worshiping the music and not God.  Yes the skillful playing helps and we practice hard to try and do our best to make an acceptable offering to God and not damage peoples ears but that is not the focus.

When I watch some of these programs or perhaps visit another church, I sometime get the feeling that it is all about the music or the musicians, not God.  You see some doing their “piece” in the middle of a song, and can’t help feeling that it’s “Look at me/us, aren’t we amazing musicians.  Look at all the whizzy lights and graphics show.

Now sometimes these things are appropriate and are certainly attractive to a lot of people.  I have enjoyed going to some concerts by some well known Worship leaders/Songwriters but that is what they are – a concert, and depending on the person you are sometimes lead into worship as they draw people to focus on God rather than them.

Similarly there are some other songs which I shall call “the look at me, aren’t I marvelous I’m going to heaven” songs.  Again, there is a place for these.

I have been in “church” long enough to remember the “Hymnbook sandwich” format of Hymn, Prayer, Hymn, Reading, Hymn (offering), “Musical Item” or perhaps a couple of “modern” chorus’s (a bit of a sing song), Sermon and then Hymn and have watched the change in Worship format over all these years and yes I like many of the modern songs as well as some of the older ones. Even some of the old Hymns you wonder what they are talking about and of course they were “Modern” in their day.

Corporate worship as in singing Hymns together apparently was not common in English churches until around the early 1800’s.  Previously there had been traveling singers who would travel round the different churches, so there are still comparisons today.

I have read blogs where people are questioning why congregations seem to have lost the art of singing together and this is possibly why – they don’t know the song, the song is not actually a worship song which is meaningful in drawing us to God.  Is it scriptural? does it reflect how people are? Does the song still focus on God in a way which regardless of how people are feeling they can still worship Him for his goodness and grace?

I still remember a lot of songs which were based on scripture, they are a great way to get God’s word into you, and you can often remember a song more easily than learning a memory verse (except that you usually can’t remember the scripture reference)

As for me, worship has to be about Him, not us.  We may occasionally sing songs rejoicing in what God has done and give thanks for where we are now but the essence is His Worth-ship

I’ll leave you with Matt Redman’s song – When the Music fades…It’s all about You Jesus

 

https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=when+the+music+fade&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002

Genesis 6 v 11 -13: The End is coming

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But everyone else was evil in God’s sight, and violence had spread everywhere.  God looked at the world and saw that it was evil, for the people were all living evil lives.  God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to the whole human race.  I will destroy them completely, because the world is full of their violent deeds (v 11-13)

We look at some of the things going on in our world today and despair at what we see.  Corrupt leaders, fighting and murders, greed, immorality, a lack of care for our fellow man.  I can’t imagine what it must have been like in Noah’s time for it to have been so bad that God decides to destroy everything.  How Noah must have struggled to keep himself close to God when everyone around him was doing whatever they wanted, worshiping other “Gods”, killing each other with hatred and selfish greed.

We saw in a previous post that Noah had tried to “preach” righteousness but no one listened.  “God wants to spoil our fun”, “Everyone else is doing it”  “I have a right to do what I like” – can you hear those same comments today?  Our laws now allow things which God says are not right.  Corrupt leaders kill those who oppose them, babies are murdered before they are born for “convenience”.  People demand the right to have things which they have not earned or to do whatever they want to do.  We have lost our way as our leaders have tried to please the people instead of God.

Moses had so many problems with the people of Israel who were fickle and followed their own desires instead of God.  Complaining so much about what they thought they should have, that he said in Deuteronomy 31 v 29:

I know that after my death the people will become wicked and reject what I have taught them.  And in time they will meet with disaster because they will have made the LORD angry by doing what he has forbidden

They had a history of wandering off or descending into sinful lives as soon as he was not around.  While he was with God on the mountain seeking Gods instruction for them they began to make new idols because they did not want to wait for the word of the LORD and Aaron was too weak to correct them.  In Exodus 32 v 7;

The LORD said to Moses, “Go back down at once, because your people whom you led out of Egypt, have sinned and rejected me.

Notice that God refers to “Your” people, not “My” people, they have rejected him and gone their own way as soon as Moses was not around.  In the days of Egypt when they cried out to Him, he says “Let MY people go”  It had not taken long for their hearts to wander away and lust after the things they had or thought others had that they wanted.  They were no longer seeking after him and chose to desire other things instead of God so He is forced to disown them.

God vows to destroy them but Moses pleads with him to spare them and God relents, but when Moses asks who of the people will stand with him on the LORD’S side, only the Levites stood with him so God then uses the Levites to punish them.  Moses goes back up to plead for forgiveness on their behalf asking God to remove him from the book of names of God’s people.  God replies that it is only those who have sinned against him who will have their names removed.( see also Deuteronomy 9 v 13 onwards).

Noah pleaded with people to repent and turn to God but they did not want to know.  we don’t know much about the lives of his ancestors but we do know that the world had become increasingly Godless during that time, each generation was worse than the previous and yet it was only 7 generations!  This trend is repeated throughout the Bible.

Judges 2 v 19 – But when the leader died, the people used to return to the old ways and behave worse than the previous generation

It was the same in Ezekiel’s time:

Ezekiel 7 v 23 – Everything is in confusion – the land is full of murders and the cities are full of violence.

We are seeing repeatedly even in these first few chapters of the Bible that God wants a heart that follows Him.  He knows we are human and make mistakes but he will forgive us if we seek after him.  He want us to love him first, to strive to be righteous in His sight and then he can bless us (Matthew 6 v 33)

Fools say to themselves, “There is no God” They are all corrupt, and they have done terrible things; there is no one who does what is right.  The LORD looks down from heaven at human beings to see if there are any who are wise, any who worship him.  (Psalm 14 v 1-2)

That is what he looks for – the wise man worships God and not the things of this earth so let this be our prayer

Psalm 7 v 9 – You are a righteous God and judge our thoughts and desires.  Stop the wickedness of evildoers and reward those who are good.

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible

 

Genesis 6 v 9 -10: Blameless?

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This is the story of Noah.  He had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth.  Noah had no faults and was the only good man of his time.  He lived in fellowship with God. (v 9-10)

We see a reference here which says that Noah had no faults but we know from reading further that Noah on a least one occasion got drunk and surely could not have been perfect and sinless.

The NIV version translates this as righteous and blameless among the people of his time, and that he walked with God.

There are many people that we read of in the Bible who are spoken of as righteous, walking with God, and yet we know that they did things wrong.

Abraham was deceitful: he mislead people about his relationship to His wife Sarah (Genesis 12 v 13 & 20 v 2)

David implicated murder to try and cover up his adultery. (2 Samuel 11) and yet later was able to say:

He knows that I am faultless, that I have kept myself from doing wrong.  And so he rewards me because I do what is right, because he knows that I am innocent (2 Samuel 22 v 24)

Moses too was a murderer (Exodus 2 v 12) and yet was called by God, but he disobeyed God when he struck the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20) and so was not allowed to enter the promised land.

Job was blameless and upright (Job 1 v1) and yet God had strong words to say to him in Job 38-39 and Job then repented.

The pattern we see here in comparison to Cain killing Abel in Genesis 4, is that they acknowledged their failures, repented and sought forgiveness and to be obedient to God afterwards.  God sees this as righteousness and although they all had to suffer the consequences or punishment for their actions, they accepted and received it with reverence and humility whereas Cain remained conceited and complained that his punishment was “not fair” and therefore was banished.

God only asks us to:

Be completely faithful to your God. (Deuteronomy 18 v 13)

Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22 v 37)

Noah was faithful to God in a world that no longer cared and was intent on evil.  There were no other people who were considered righteous by God.

It was faith that made Noah hear God’s warnings about things in the future that he could not see.  He obeyed God and built a boat in which he and his family were saved.  As a result, the world was condemned and Noah received from God the righteousness that comes from faith (Hebrews 11 v 7)

Noah tried to tell people of the impending judgement, but they did not listen to him and just mocked him;

God did not spare the ancient world, but brought the flood on the world of godless people, the only ones he saved were Noah, who preached righteousness, and seven other people (2 Peter 2 v 5)

This is the only reference we see in the Bible of Noah “preaching” but there are similar descriptions in other documents that were well known to the Jews such as Josephus and 1 Clement 7 v 6 (Noah preached repentance, and as many as hearkened unto him were saved)  and 1 Clement 9 v 4 (Noah, having been found faithful, preached, by his ministry, regeneration unto the world, and by him God preserved the animals that entered with one consent into the ark)

It appears from this that only his immediate family listened.  We saw in Chapter 5 that Enoch had prophesised when naming his son Methuselah that the judgement would come when he died (Methuselah means : his death shall bring judgement) so by this time there were none of Noah’s righteous ancestors still living and the rain started at Methuselah’s death.

We know that we have all sinned (Romans 3 v 23) but if we acknowledge our failings and follow God, he will forgive us and make us righteous (blameless) in his sight (1 John 1 v 8 & 9)

 O LORD, you are faithful to those who are faithful to you, and completely good to those who are perfect (2 Samuel 22 v 26)

 

All quotes from the Good News Bible

Genesis 6 v 1-8; A Wicked World

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1500 years or so had passed since God made Adam and Eve and the human race had spread all over the world.  God had told people to be fruitful and certainly by this time with people living 7/800 years and having many many children, the population of the earth had grown considerably.   Some estimates say that this could have been in the region of 30,000 million people – ie 30 billion and the current population in 2016 is in the region of 7 billion but we are not given any clear information on this, only that the number had increased.

Verses 2 & 4 speak of Heavenly beings (or Sons of God) taking the beautiful young women and having children by them who were giants and heroes of the day – they were known as the Nephilim.

Now there are several interpretations on this part of the story.  Jewish literature speaks of these being Angels who strayed from their original order and came down to earth and “married” human women. Jude v 6-7 speaks of the Angels who left their positions of authority and are now being held in darkness awaiting judgement.  We know too from Job 1 v 6 that the angels were called before God to report on what they had been doing.

The name “Nephilim” comes from the Hebrew word for “fallen ones” and were known to be people of great size and strength and viewed as the heroes of old but in Gods eyes they were sinners.

Others say that this cannot be possible due to God’s order of creation and in Mark 12 v 25 Jesus says;

For when the dead rise to life, they will be like the angels in heaven and will not marry

This implies therefore that it is not possible for there to be intermarriage between angels and humans although many ancient mythologies mention this.

“Sons of God” more usually refers to human beings (Isaiah 43 v 6, Hosea 1 v 10, Luke 3 v 38, 1 John 3 v 1)

This could be a reference to Godly men marrying sinful women – the daughters of men, possibly from Cain’s line who brought their sinful ways with them.

“Sons of God” can also be a reference to Kings who were revered and worshiped in some areas and built up corrupt kingdoms for themselves.

Then the Lord said “I will not allow people to live for ever; they are mortal.  From now on they will live no longer than 120 years” (v 3)

Other translations say “My Spirit will not contend (or remain) with man forever”.  God is holy and cannot tolerate the evil sinful nature of man and the depths which they had reached by this time.

He then declares a life span of 120 years.  Again there are two interpretations of this.  The first is that he was giving notice of his plan to destroy the earth.  Later on we read that Noah appears to have been around 500 years old when God reveals his plan to him but the flood did not occur until he was 600 years old.  Others take the more literal approach in that God declares that man’s life will be no more than 120 years.  In Psalm 90 v 10 the Psalmist refers to the length of our days being 70 years.

When the LORD saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time, he was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on the earth.  He was so filled with regret that he said “I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am sorry that I made any of them (v 5-7)

The people on earth were getting on with their lives with no thought or regard to their creator so God was full of pain and regret that they had rejected him.  The animals suffered under this too although they were morally innocent, they had been placed under the authority of man who was sinful.

But the Lord was pleased with Noah (v 8)

Noah was not perfect, we know that he made mistakes but the accounts imply that he was the only one left who still tried to follow and honour God and in comparison to his contemporaries he was a Godly man.

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible

 

Genesis 5 v 28-32; Introducing Noah

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When Lamech was 182, he had a son, and said “From the very ground on which the LORD put a curse, this child will bring us relief from all our hard work”, so he named him Noah (v28-29)

The name Noah sounds similar to the Hebrew word for comfort.  The NIV translates this verse as:

He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed (See also Genesis 3 v 17-19)

Lamech was obviously getting very tired and as the world was getting worse, it seems that very few people were continuing to follow God, they were suffering the consequences of the cursed soil.

For creation was condemned to lose it’s purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so.  Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8 v 20-21)

Lamech had the hope that God would relieve them from their burden of hard work and is the only person that would have known each of his ancestors back to Adam as well as Noah and his children.

It is not clear exactly how long it took Noah to build the ark but it was anything up to 100 years.  Lamech died only a few years before the flood and his father Methuselah died in the year of the flood so they would have known about it and the judgement coming.  Hopefully they would have helped Noah as it would have been a pretty impossible task to complete on his own and later Noah’s sons could have helped so in the later stages there could have been six of them working together.  Reading ahead though, it is also possible that Noah was alone with his sons.  When God gave him the instructions to build the ark God says that he is the only one who is righteous, so did Methuselah die before the flood or in it?  It is interesting to note that Methuselah apparently means “when he dies; judgement”  His father Enoch was known to be a Godly man and certainly Lamech’s naming of Noah was prophetic as after the flood in Genesis 8 v 21-22 God promised not to put the earth under a curse again.

After Noah was 500 years old, he had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth (v 32)

Now a curious thing I’ve noticed here is that there is no further detail on the dates relating to the births of Noah’s three sons.  All the previous records state “When … was … years old, he had a son, but when we come to Noah’s 3 sons it says “After Noah was 500 years old, he had three sons”.  Were they triplets? or was it just deemed unnecessary to record their ages.  The only accurate mention we have is in Genesis 11 v 10 where it tells us that two years after the flood, Shem was 100 years old.  Translations differ in relation to Genesis 10 v 21 in that some refer to Shem as being the elder brother, whereas others interpret the Hebrew word ha-gadol (“the elder”) as referring to Japheth.  The order of the names given is not necessarily the order of birth but it is Shem’s line which is then followed down to Abraham and further so it may be that his name is placed first as he becomes the most important in the future records.

Genesis 5: And then He died

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This is the list of the descendants of Adam.  (when God created human beings, he made them like himself.  He created them male and female, blessed them, and named them “Humanity” Genesis 5 v 1-2)

Genesis chapter 5 is the first of several geneologies in the Bible and lists the descendants of Adam through to Noah.  As we noted in the last study, there were many many more descendants from Adam’s children and we know from Cain’s actions that many of them would have wandered away from God during this time.  A pattern is followed with each person listed;

After he had lived … years he became the father of …  After he became the father of .. he lived …. years and had other sons and daughters.  Altogether, …. lived … years and then he died.

All of them except Enoch; who we will talk about later.

So we have;

  • Adam lived 930 years
  • Seth lived 912 years
  • Enosh lived 905 years
  • Kenan lived 840 years
  • Mahalalel lived 895 years
  • Jared lived 962 years
  • Enoch lived 365 years and then God took him
  • Methuselah lived 965 years
  • Lamech lived 777 years
  • Noah

Some time ago I did a little exercise tracking the timescales of each person as recorded here in chapter 5.  It’s interesting to note the overlap of the generations recorded here in that it becomes clear that apart from Noah, they would have all known Adam and were alive at the time of Adam’s death.  Lamech, the 9th generation would have been around 50 at the time of Adam’s death  It is very likely then that they would have heard first hand accounts from Adam of what had happened in those early days and of his walk with God in the garden.  There is not opportunity here for the story to be distorted down the generations as Adam was still alive and able to say “I was there – this is how it was!”

Enoch was the first to go after Adam.  The Bible says that “he walked with God”  The Good News Bible translated this as “He spent his life in fellowship with God”.  There is a crucial difference here in that of all the others the Bible says “He lived” but of Enoch it says “He walked with God” – in other words – he REALLY lived.

We are living now, but are we walking with God.  That is the great challenge to us.  Enoch it seems was the only one who was living anywhere near to the life that God intended for his children and walked closely in fellowship with him.  I’m imagining him perhaps sitting on the knees of his Great x4 Grandfather and hearing the stories of how Adam walked with God in the Garden and his young heart yearning to have that closeness with God.  His reward was that he did not have to suffer the penalty of death.

If we look further at the timescales, at the time of Noah’s birth, only Adam and Seth had died and then Enosh died when Noah was around 90 years old.

Some people question the accuracy of the number of years lifespan recorded here, but then we have to remember that Adam was created perfect.  There were no sicknesses and diseases which would have taken them at that time.  It is not until David writes in the Psalm 90 v 10 a reference to our lifespan being 70 years.

There is possibly some significance drawn by the numbers in that Enoch was 365 years old when God took him, the number of days in a year, perhaps indicating a full life.

Lamech’s 777 years could perhaps be compared with the Lamech of Genesis 4, the descendant of Cain.  7 is regarded as the number of completion and 777 is hinted at being the number representing God in Revelations.  This compares with the 70 times 7 which Cain’s Lamech boastfully proclaims in Genesis 4.

We then come to Noah – who we will look at a bit more closely in the next study

 

All quotes from The Good News Bible

Genesis 4 v 25-26: Seth

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Adam and his wife had another son.  She said “God has given me a son to replace Abel, whom Cain killed” So she named him Seth.  Seth had a son whom he named Enosh.  It was then that people began using the LORD’s holy name in worship (Genesis 4 v 25-26)

Abel was dead, and Cain had been alienated, so Adam and Eve were given another son so that their family could continue as God had intended for them.  We don’t know the exact timescales of these events but in Genesis chapter 5 v 3 it says that Adam had lived 130 years when Seth was born so it would appear that Cain and Abel were probably well into adulthood when Cain killed Abel, not young hot-headed teenagers and it appears that they were still living at least close to their parents.

It is only after the event that we see reference to Cain having a wife and later Seth having a son.  But where did these wives come from?

We noticed that later in Chapter 5 v 3 it says that Adam had lived 130 years when Seth was born.  In verse 4 it says that Adam had other sons and daughters so it is likely that Cain and Seth’s “wives” were also their sisters.  The Hebrew word used is “ishshah” which also means woman or female.  Genesis 4 v 17 refers to Cains wife in a way that implies that she went with him when he was banished.  The land of Nod (Wandering) was barren and empty so there would not have been anyone there and there is no reference to him “finding” a wife so we can conclude that she must have been his sister.  Cain and Abel were probably the two first born and then any further children (possibly all girls) were not recorded

Acts 17 v 26 says;

From one human being he created all races on earth and made them live throughout the whole earth

Remember too that when Adam gave Eve her name in Genesis 3 v 20, it was because she was the mother of all human beings.  Adam had looked already and found that there was no-one else like him before God created her.

The laws against marrying close relatives were not brought in until the time of Moses about 2500 years later.  Adam and Eve were both created perfect and without sin.  It was sin which brought in the imperfections and gene errors as the people wandered away from God, so Adam and Eve’s children would not have been affected by any imperfect genes as there would not at that point been any. In the earlier generations it was very common to marry close relatives (Abraham’s wife Sarah was his half sister)

The Jewish tradition recorded by Josephus the historian, says that Adam and Eve actually had something like 33 sons and 23 daughters over their 8-900 year lifespan.  God had instructed them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1 v 28)

In Genesis 5 v 6 it says that Seth was 105 years old when Enosh was born and Joseph, the husband of Mary, Jesus’s mother was descended from this line (Luke 3 v 23-37).

It was then that people began using the Lord’s holy name in worship (v26)

Seth would have grown up knowing the story of what happened to his uncles and would have been taught the lessons from his parents mistakes too.  He obviously very wisely chose to follow and seek God and taught his own family to do the same.

But all who ask the Lord for help will be saved (Joel 2 v 32, Acts 2 v 21)

We will look next at the line of Godly men who were descended from him.