Tag Archives: Genesis

The Beginning of Prayer

When did people start to pray?

In Genesis 4:26 we read that people began to call on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) in the days of Adam and Eve’s grandchildren, specifically a grandson named Enosh. People spoke with God before Enosh was born, but conversations with God prior to Enosh were initiated by God: God spoke to Adam in Genesis 3, God spoke to Cain in Genesis 4. In prayer, a man or woman initiates communication with God by calling upon him.

Eve makes a statement in Genesis 4:25 about the blessing of having a son to replace Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain. But she speaks of God in the third person (“he”). Prayer addresses God directly, in second person (“you”).

It seems natural to think that Adam or Eve or their son Seth (Enosh’s dad) prayed before their grandson Enosh and his generation were born. If they did, the Bible does not tell us. Instead, the Bible emphasizes Enosh and his generation. Enosh’s uncles, Cain and Abel, worshiped God in Genesis 4, but whatever Cain did was unacceptable to God and whatever Abel did died with him when he was murdered by his brother.

So we have no direct Scriptural evidence for prayer before Genesis 4:26. But in Genesis 4:26 we learn that Enosh and his generation began calling on the name of Yahweh at that time. In Genesis 4:26 something new begins.

“Calling on the name” is surely a reference to prayer. Enosh and his generation may have also sacrificed to God, as did Cain and Abel, but that is not mentioned. The emphasis is on prayer.

Many generations after Enosh, Jesus visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He was outraged by the distractions which the religious leaders had introduced in order to make financial transactions in God’s house. In an unexpected expression of righteous indignation, Jesus overturns the tables of the moneychangers and drives out the animals with a makeshift whip. He accuses them of turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Then Jesus makes a fascinating assertion. He insists that his Father’s house is to be a house of prayer. Think of all the activities which Jesus could legitimately mention: praise, sacrifice, teaching, preaching, giving, fellowship, healing, but the only thing he mentions is prayer. Why?

Prayer is at the heart of biblical faith. The soul of spirituality in Scripture is the communion of God with the saints, his people. Humanity is created to know God and to enjoy him and his blessings.

After Adam and Eve sinned and broke the close relationship between humanity and God there was something vital missing in every person, something crying out for completion. Prayer is the heart’s cry for the One who is absent until forgiveness and restoration is affected and a new connection is made with the Maker.

In the larger context of Genesis 4-5 this verse at the end of chapter 4 highlights the contrast between the line of Seth (which includes Enosh) and the line of Cain (who killed his brother, Abel).

Cain’s descendants go to work developing the bountiful natural resources provided by God in order to build an impressive civilization. (I am especially fascinated with Jubal, the first to make and play musical instruments, or perhaps the first to develop music significantly enough to be considered the ‘father’ of all musicians.)

The creative use of nature is in no way sinful in itself. God filled this world with resources and he blessed humanity with the curiosity, creativity, intelligence and energy to discover and develop, to fashion and create. But the line of Cain in early Genesis is distinguished in this instance mostly by an omission, and what is lacking in Cain’s descendants is any effort to call upon the name of the Lord.

Seth’s line, on the other hand, has a desire to seek communion with God through prayer. And so, early in human history the division between believer and unbeliever surfaces (a continuation of the break between Cain and Abel). This is a division which will be seen in Noah vs. the antediluvian world, in Abraham vs. the Canaanites, Israel vs. the nations, the remnant of Israel vs. unfaithful Israel, and finally in the Jewish-Gentile church vs. those who reject Christ.

From Enosh to Jesus to now, the great feature that distinguishes the people of God is prayer, not just haphazard flirtations with prayer, but a heart that is hungry for the presence of God and refuses to give up seeking the Lord until he is found.

Unbelievers pray, but they are not known for their prayer.

God’s people should be seen by the world as a people of prayer.

Brother Richard

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Did Eve Leave a Mark on Adam?

God made the first man and put him in the Garden of Eden. The man, Adam, enjoyed the perfect environment: no housing bubbles or global warming, no overcrowding or energy shortages. All was good, apparently.

Adam not only had the pleasure of living in the garden, he also had the responsibility of taking care of it. It was the perfect job: no unemployment or labor disputes. He didn’t even have to pay taxes or worry about his retirement account. He was free of worries, or so it seemed.

Religion was good for Adam, too. God gave him only one command. He was free to eat from every tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He only had one verse to memorize and obey. Who could ask for anything better?

So Adam had a beautiful home, a great job, and a simple religion. Nevertheless, God noted that something was not right. He said that it was not good for Adam to be alone. And God had the perfect solution.

First, animals appeared before Adam so that he could name them. Apparently this was God’s way of making Adam aware of his need, his loneliness. All the animals had mates but Adam did not. And none of the animals could serve as his closest companion.

Then God caused a deep sleep to come over Adam. While Adam slept, God took something from Adam’s side. Most English Bibles call it a rib. Rib or not, it was definitely part of Adam’s body.

God took the living tissue that he removed from Adam’s side and fashioned it into a woman, the first woman. He then closed up Adam’s side and presented the woman to him.

Adam was thrilled. “At last! This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken from man” (Genesis 2:23). Adam was no longer alone, problem solved.

But wait a minute. God performed surgery on Adam. Did that leave a scar? God closed him up but did he do so without leaving a mark? What place does a scar have in Paradise? After all, scars are echoes of pain and suffering, right?

And another thing: God could have made Adam and Eve at the same time, but he made Adam first, lacking his lover. Moreover, he sent Adam out on a search for a mate, knowing that his search would be unsuccessful. What is happening here?

Loneliness, failure, and scars are what we expect in the world today. Our world struggles with the tragic consequences caused by countless generations of rebellion against God. But why would God allow these things in the Garden of Eden, even just a little bit?

It’s clear; God made Adam incomplete. Adam was forced to change in order to become all that God wanted him to be. He needed the perfect helper made just for him, a woman, but he had to engage in a failed search first. He had to experience loneliness before he could appreciate her affection.

Then he had to trust God enough to give up a part of himself in order to have this mate. He really did have some “skin in the game!” And he had to put himself in God’s hands without seeing a picture of the woman first so that he could decide if she would be worth the trouble, the very first blind date.

Surely Adam’s struggle was far easier than the agony that people face now. After all, he was in Paradise. Human suffering now is far worse due to centuries of defiance against God. But it seems that God’s original design for humanity included some struggling for growth, even in Paradise.

If God’s surgery left a scar on Adam, then Adam was able to see his investment in Eve for the rest of his life. He could simply glance down at the mark on his side and remember that she cost him a bit of himself. That scar would be a good thing.

And even if Adam was not scarred from God’s surgery, he could remember the failed search for a mate, perhaps giving him his first sensation of anxiety. He had to realize that something important was missing in his life and that, apart from God, he was helpless to do anything about it.

Those who say that God never wishes for us to undergo any suffering are telling a half-truth. The whole truth is this: God does not want us to suffer meaninglessly. He does, however, desire that we experience real growth in our struggles.

If we mistakenly believe that God never allows us to suffer, then we will be tempted to conclude that our suffering is unnecessary, leading to despair. But when we trust that our suffering is used by God not to crush us, but to build us up, then we have hope. Our scars, be they physical, mental, or spiritual, are proof that we have a personal investment in growing stronger and wiser.

God’s greatest work resulted in scars. On the hands and side of Jesus are the permanent marks of the greatest victory in all of time and eternity: God’s salvation for all who will trust him completely.

Jesus obeyed God and suffered on a Roman cross. And for anyone who wishes to do things God’s way, Jesus challenges, “Let him take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). That leaves marks. That leads to eternal victory.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church
Published by the Camden News in Religious Reflections April 21, 2013

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Are We Our Brother’s Keeper?

Cain killed his brother Abel because he was jealous. When God asked Cain about his brother’s whereabouts, he fired back at the Lord in anger, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Cain meant that he was not responsible for his brother, but God disagreed.

Cain’s question has become a symbol for issues far greater than the tragedy between two brothers from the ancient past. The question is now asked in relation to the Church’s responsibility to society. Is the Church called to eradicate all injustice in this world?

God’s command in the Old Testament to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17) could be seen as an answer to Cain’s question. God’s people have a responsibility not just to their own family members, but also to neighbors. Does that include the society at large?

In the New Testament, a man asked Jesus about this command to love one’s neighbor. He wanted to know where to draw the line. How does God define “neighbor”?

Jesus answered the man’s question with a parable. A traveler was robbed and left for dead on a dangerous road. Two religious Jews passed by and denied the man any assistance. A Samaritan, however, went out of his way to help the dying man.

Jesus told his listeners, Jews, to be like the Samaritan, a people considered inferior by the Jews. Clearly Jesus expects his followers to help those who are in need, and not just those within one’s own socio-economic or ethnic group.

God’s people should reach across the multitude of lines that divide humanity in order to help anyone who is in need. But did Jesus expect his followers to establish a just and equitable society?

Jesus was a prophet like those in the Old Testament. They spoke truth to power. As bold messengers from the Lord, they stood against exploitation and oppression. They were advocates for the poor and disenfranchised in their culture.

Did not Jesus carry on the tradition of exposing and denouncing the sins of the ruling class? He did. Jesus excoriated the leaders in his day for using their places of privilege to enrich themselves at the expense of the marginalized.

The prophets’ fiery denunciations against abuses of power are a good model for the Church today, but only if their full message is understood and imitated. The prophets clearly saw that a just society depends upon a God-fearing and God-obeying people. Trying to remove injustice is not enough. The prophets’ ultimate goal was to turn the hearts of the people to the Lord.

Jesus condemned social injustice, but he left no mandate for redeeming cultures, societies, or governments in this age. He predicted that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed, and it was. He also predicted that all kingdoms in this age will fall and they will. Why? Every new generation battles with sin and injustice because this world is broken by sin; and this broken world needs not just progressive social reform, but radical spiritual change.

Jesus expects his followers to denounce social injustice, but not as part of an attempt to establish heaven on earth because that would be an impossible task. Every generation starts over with a fresh crop of sinners whose hearts are drawn toward disobedience to God, leading to another harvest of injustice.

Despite the perpetual and inevitable failure of humanity to achieve a just and righteous society, God’s people are not allowed to be pessimistic. Instead, the Lord expects his followers to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In fact, the Bible asserts that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). But good works without faith are futile.

The man who asked Jesus how to define “neighbor” had first asked Jesus’ opinion about God’s greatest command. Jesus answered by noting the command to love one’s neighbor, but he said that it was second in importance, not first. The primary command is to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving one another is not a substitute for loving God.

A rich man asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give all the money to the poor, but not so that first-century Palestine would be a more just and equitable place. The young man needed to rid himself of all that would keep him from following Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus was the ultimate goal then as it is now.

Jesus attended to the sick and poor, but he did so in order to bring attention to his message. At the end of his time on earth he gave his followers instructions for carrying on his work. “You all will be my witnesses,” he told them, to everyone everywhere (Acts 1:8). The record shows that Early Christianity’s main focus was placed on announcing the truth about God’s salvation.

Moments before Jesus surrendered his life on a Roman cross, he said, “It is finished.” What was finished? Surely he was not referring to the work of social justice, because as he uttered those words the world was filled with war, poverty, sickness, violence, and despair.

Jesus’ finished work was to give his life as a sacrifice for sin so that all who trust in him will be right with God and spend eternity with the Lord in a place without social injustice and without sin. Help those in need, but put your faith not in social reform, but in the Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church

Published by the Camden News in Religious Reflections April 12, 2013

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What is Your Next Step of Faith?

Noah was commended for being righteous, blameless in his generation, and for walking with God (Genesis 6:9). Walking with God seems to be the climax of the list. Not only did he live an upright life, not only was he a bright spot in a corrupt and wicked generation, but he actually walked with the Living God, a very high compliment in Scripture. But what does it mean to walk with God?

The word walk is used in the Bible for a person’s lifestyle. Some of our newer translations simply use the word live. For instance, Galatians 5:16 is sometimes rendered: Live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). A literal translation is: Walk by the Spirit. By using the picture of walking we get the idea that our spiritual life is going somewhere. So we can ask: What is the next step in following the Lord?

To live a godly life in an ungodly world was only one step in Noah’s spiritual life. God challenged him to take the next step: to build an ark. If Noah was trying to blend in and stay out of sight, he was in for a surprise. You cannot hide a 450-foot-long, 75-foot-wide, 45-foot-high ark. In order to walk with God, Noah had to do something that would make his faith very public, very noticeable.

Building the ark must have taken many years of hard work. Surely Noah got used to the routine. In addition to all the things he did before, he now had to find time for building that massive floating box. But all the things he did before were still there, providing some continuity. Then, when the ark was finally finished, it was time to take another step of faith, the next step in walking with God.

God instructed Noah to enter the ark with his family. Once inside, God himself closed the door. It’s one thing to build the ark, but it is something else to go inside and leave the past behind. Everything changed for Noah when he took his family inside that ark. God unleashed the flood, and with it his judgment on a wicked and rebellious world. Noah’s life would never be the same.

Noah understood that walking with God meant leaving his comfort zone and following the Lord into the unknown. He knew that he could trust God, even though it meant losing what was familiar to him. Trying to stay in the previous stage of faith would have been a disaster for Noah. He was not called to build arks, but to build one ark and to entrust himself and his family to that one ark. He had to find the courage to take the next step.

What is the next step of faith for me? for you? If we are going to walk with God, then we will be called on by God to move forward one step at a time, not to stand still. Occasionally we will face a step that requires great faith on our part because it means leaving familiar things behind and going on to something new and unprecedented.

Perhaps the Lord is calling you to take the next step of faith by doing something new. To stand still would be like Noah refusing to enter the ark, or to leave it when the time came. Obedience will keep your spiritual life healthy and vital. Jesus is calling us to follow him, one step at a time, hand to the plow, not looking back, and fit for service in the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

May God’s Spirit inspire and enable us to follow Jesus every step of the way,

Brother Richard Foster

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Podcast: Our Universe: Mishap or Miracle?

Our Universe: Mishap or Miracle?
Genesis 1:1-2

Step through the beginning of Genesis with Dr. Richard Foster as he discusses why the physical and spiritual realms make sense.

Audio note: The audio at the beginning of this podcast is rather quiet. Please be patient as the astronauts read the beginning of Genesis from their Apollo mission.

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Did God Change His Name to Higgs Boson?

On July 4 scientists announced the discovery of an important particle in the universe: the Higgs boson.  It has been called the “God particle.”  Some say that this discovery is another important step toward proving that our universe exists without God.  Is that true?

First of all, despite the fireworks coming from the scientific community over this triumph of human intellect, many riddles about the nature of our universe remain unsolved (What in the world is “dark matter”?).  But why this preoccupation with trying to disprove God’s existence anyway?

Scientific exploration in our world was carried on for thousands of years by men and women who assumed that careful study of the physical world yields answers because the physical world operates based on observable and predictable laws.  The laws governing our universe are guaranteed by the Lawgiver: God.

Because God is the Designer, his world exhibits design, complex beauty which is worthy of our careful study.  And because God has created each of us in his image, we have curious minds capable of recognizing and appreciating design.

But another group of scientists has gained prominence.  They assume that God is a myth, so there is no design and no guarantee of answers.  The question of why the world operates according to laws and principles is taboo with this newer group.  In fact, physical laws are merely accidental forces that are to be described and manipulated, nothing more.

For instance, the law of gravity is manipulated in order to produce flight.  Asking why our universe should have a law of gravity is dangerous because it might lead back to the search for God.  Just fly and don’t ask too many questions.

The godless scientists come with a curious irony.  When badly outnumbered by the God-believing scientists, they insisted on their right to think and explore outside the established dogma.  Now they refuse to allow others the same courtesy.  They insist on limiting exploration of the universe by closing the door on God, or trying to.

But the God question refuses to go away, why?  Because questions about “the beginning” are unavoidable and yet they seem to be beyond the reach of human science.  “The beginning” seems to hide behind a mysterious cosmic curtain that human science is incapable of piercing.

Some scientists may wish to limit the debate, but human curiosity will not be silenced.  If scientists have found the Higgs boson, great! but how did it originate?  Why does it exist at all?  If science finds a particle that explains the beginning of the Higgs particle then we must ask how that particle originated.

The Bible addresses our desire to know about “the beginning.”  Scripture starts with these momentous words in Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created. . . .”  The answer to the beginning of the Higgs boson, of dark matter, and of everything else is God.

Here is the problem for those who want to cut God out: God does more than answer questions about beginnings.  Once we admit that God cannot be removed from the equation then we are faced with the next logical question.  Who is God and what is he like?

According to Scripture God is holy, righteous, and just.  As our Maker, he expects us to be holy because he is holy.  To refuse living by his standard is to fall under his judgment.  To admit that disobedience is wrong and seek his forgiveness is to experience his mercy and love.

Maybe God would be more acceptable to secular science if he simply answered questions about the physical universe without bringing in moral, ethical, and spiritual matters.  But God is indivisible.  To have his answers about origins is to face his challenges about ethics.

Secular people think that scientific exploration of the universe, and everyday life, should be liberated from God.  Such a freedom, however, comes at a terrible cost.  Without God we lose the ability to ever answer the questions about the origins of our universe and about the source of the laws that govern it.  But even more hangs in the balance.

Without God there is no fixed standard of truth, goodness, and love.  In a godless universe these are not eternal realities, they are simply human ideas, subject to constant change, suspension, or cancellation.  But fortunately for us, God has not changed his name nor will he ever change his character.

The God question persists because God persists.  The stubborn question about “the beginning” is a reminder that like God, morals, ethics, and spirituality will never be expelled from human experience.  And because God is eternal and God is love, then love is eternal.

Am I saying that without God there is no love?  Yes I am.  And without God there is no science.  Science depends upon the laws of physics and the laws of physics depend upon the Lawgiver.  Don’t allow anyone to limit you in your quest to learn about “the beginning.”

Richard Foster, Grace Baptist Church, July 2012

Printed July 2012;  Camden News;  Camden, AR.

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