Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 3: Disruptive Truths of God’s Kingdom
Lesson 44 – Review of the Major Events of the Old Testament (Prior to the Exodus)
02 Jan 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We handed out the set of notes starting with the next great historic event, which is the Exodus event. The Exodus event is the major picture of salvation in the Old Testament. Interestingly, the very word Exodus, Jesus uses Himself in Luke when He says, “Behold, my Exodus is coming,” something like that. So there’s a lot that we want to study in the Exodus. Since we didn’t have notes for tonight, I want to take this time to go back and review the text and the doctrines, and the events that we’ve done for the last year and one-half. So, I want review all the events, the text, things to watch for as your read Scripture, and the areas in this portion of Scripture that are very critical in today’s world. We’ll start by using this chart that we’ve looked at again and again. We want to look at these events, last year we did four, this year we barely got one done.
The purpose of going through event by event by event is that when the great speeches are given in Scripture, the prophets give the speeches, if you take a piece of paper and write out the events that they always refer to, you’ll see this is the set of events. That’s how we got these events. It’s not arbitrary, they flowed out of watching, for example, what Steven speaks of in Acts 7, what Joshua speaks of, what Moses speaks of in Deuteronomy, what Isaiah speaks of, what Jeremiah speaks of, what’s discussed after the exile. You’ll see that there’s a composite series of things that are referred to again and again and again. That’s why we keep going back to these events. So, in looking at these we want to be sure we have the flow correct.
The second thing to remember about events is that there is where your mind’s imagination can get going because each of these events is a story. And so by reading the Scripture for those events, you fill your mind with the imagery of those events. And that’s one of the tricks of understanding in the New Testament. The New Testament always assumes that the people who are reading it have this imagery in their head. And if we come out of a non-Jewish background, or a non-orthodox Jewish background, you probably have very, very little training in the Old Testament, which means our minds aren’t really loaded and, therefore, we lack imaginative powers. The devil uses the imagination, so the Lord can use the imagination and we want to fill our imaginations with proper content. This is one way of doing it.
To get a handle, the New Testament’s great for doctrinal summaries and understanding. But the imagery, the poetry, the artistry is coming out of the Old Testament. That’s why we emphasize these events, and we keep reminding you over and over, repetition, that these are the basic events of history. If these events never happened the way the Bible says they happened, you can throw the rest of the Bible out because the Bible is a testament; the Bible is a document that testifies to God’s faithfulness. And if its testimony is marred by error, then it is of no more credibility than a witness on the stand in the middle of a court trial, when the attorneys are trying to attack the witnesses credibility by showing contradictions in the witnesses testimony. That’s what any good lawyer does, always try to undermine a witness, and the way to do it is to show he’s forgetful, to show that he’s mistaken, to show that he lies, he misrepresents, standard fare in any courtroom. Are we to think anything less than God’s own document, His own testimony, His own witness to what He has done?
This is why we must be dogmatic that there aren’t errors, there aren’t lies, there aren’t duplistic things in this narrative. So these events all must be historical. They all must be real. It’s fashionable in liberal circles to take the doctrine out of these events and say, oh, I believe that God is the Creator. Do you believe Genesis? No. Well, then how do you believe that God is the creator? Well, I believe the story of the creation. Well, what do you mean you believe the story of creation if creation never happened? It’s like people in Good First Liberal Church will give a sermon on resurrection Easter Sunday and talk all about the word resurrection. 90% of the congregation thinks the guy really believes in the resurrection. No, he doesn’t. He’s putting you on, it keeps his salary coming, but he really doesn’t believe in the historic resurrection. If you ask him, point blank, “a historic resurrection” then he’ll be forced to say, no, not really, it’s just the story of the resurrection. You can’t rip the content of the doctrine of the story away from the event. That’s basic to remember. We want to review and review this because, if we don’t have integrity to the historical narrative, then we don’t have the content to our faith. It’s that simple.
We said each one of these has an imaginative story, and associated with each one of these events is a doctrinal set. When we come to the event of the creation, we have defined, right there, in that event, the three major parts of the universe. The two major parts of the universe, and God. So we have three things. Remember, when you think of creation, automatically, you have defined who and what God is, you have defined who and what man is, and you have defined who and what nature is. All those three are linked to the event of creation. You can’t separate them. Mess up in your interpretation of the event of creation, and you necessarily mess up the doctrine of God, the doctrine of man, the doctrine of nature. You can’t keep one straight without the other. They stand or fall together. Then we went to the event of the fall, and we said that associated with the fall is the doctrine of evil; the truth of what evil is. We went to the flood, and we said the flood is a picture of two themes that are plugged together, always plugged together in the Bible; judgment, salvation. One is never divorced from the other. Wherever God judges, He is usually saving, and where He is saving, He is usually judging. We’ll see that in a big, profound way when we get into the Exodus. The Exodus takes the flood one step further. If the flood gave a picture of judgment salvation, then the Exodus expands on that picture, gives us more details.
Of the two events that we are looking at for understanding what salvation is, these two events are critical. So by reading those portions of the Bible, you sharpen your appreciation of what salvation is. And you’ll notice that in both cases, the flood and the Exodus, the emphasis is on the physical historic salvation. It’s not in how people feel. It’s not in somebody’s psychological state or somebody’s personal experience. It is a public experience, not a personal experience. That’s not to minimize personal experience. It’s just to say that the anchor is history. The anchor is objective truth and fact. The subjective response to that is personal.
Then we went into the Noahic Covenant and said that here we have a profound event happening; the God of the Bible is the only God in history who has ever made a contract. That is absolutely unique to the Bible; no other religion can claim it. Confucianism can’t claim it, Hinduism can’t, Islam can because, supposedly, Allah is the God of the Bible. But non-biblical pagan religions have nothing that corresponds to a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God. And we should note that, as Christians, that is a historic truth of our faith. It’s a unique thing, and when we think about that, we ought to stop and say, wait a minute, it that’s so, what are its implications for my faith? We’ve just dealt with the call of Abraham, how God intervenes, and so on, in history.
I want to do one further exercise to review these events; we want to look at the Scriptures associated with these events. So let’s draw a little chart and think about how to think through the Bible. Creation, obviously we have Genesis 1-2. We have the fall covered in Genesis 3. Then we have the flood, Genesis 6, 7, and 8, there’s a major central passage in the Scriptures. Then we talk about the covenant, the first covenant given, the last part of Genesis 8 and Genesis 9. Then the call of Abraham occurs in Genesis 12, and the rest of Genesis deals with the explanation and the outworking of that call. So there’s an outline of the key structure of Genesis.
If you take a Precept Bible course, or a Bible fellowship course, and you work with Genesis, you’ll pick up the theme of the seed of Abraham, the land, promise, the worldwide blessing, and then you can diagram each chapter of Genesis 12, 13, 14, 15, etc. and you can see how those three things are prominent, or not prominent, in each chapter of Genesis. That’s a way of outlining the book, it’s a way of getting a handle on the big theme here of what’s going on. This is the way we ought to think through Scripture. And the reason for that is because if we need to use these truths, then we need to know where they can be found quickly, without going to a concordance or anything else. This ought to be second nature to you. You ought to realize what these events are, how to picture them, where the Scriptures are to find them to just simply review the stories.
We want to move to a review of what we’ve learned from these events. The first thing we want to look at is the doctrine of our God. The gospel cannot be understood if we do not understand the nature of God Himself. This is always at stake. G-o-d is a very common word, so we want to make the content of our mind fit the truth. One of the ways of doing this is to have in your mind a picture from that section of the Bible that deals with creation. What do you have? You have Genesis 1-2. What is the imagery that you see in Genesis 1? God as the Creator. Think about the text. Most of you have read it through many, many times, but think about the text. What is the thing that God is doing there? He’s building the universe, yes, but how would you distinguish his work in Genesis 1 from that of, say, a pagan fable of origins? In the pagan fables, you have the gods and the goddess copulate, and out comes the universe, or out from their bodies comes the sea, out from their bodies comes something else. It’s always procreation and transmutation. Those are the two features, and you see this in almost every fable of origins; procreation and transmutation. Has it ever struck you that those two elements, procreation, reproduction, and transmutation are precisely the two in Darwinism? Isn’t that interesting that you can go into ancient fables and see those two elements, and then you come to Darwinism, and what is the mechanism of evolution? Reproduction, differentials, and mutations. So it’s striking that Darwinism and evolution is not a new thing; it simply is an ideology of paganism of old.
What do you see about God that sharpens you to keep out of that, to keep away from that idea of creation? What is going on in Genesis? What is the sharp, focused picture in that imagery of what God is doing? How does God create the universe in Genesis 1? What is the tool? What is the mechanism he’s using? Speaking. Language. That’s not found in paganism, you don’t find the pagan gods decreeing the universe into existence. That’s found only in the Bible. Only in the Bible do you have an infinite, personal God speaking, and it comes to pass. If you want a verse that gives you this imagery and its sharp focus, turn to Psalm 33:6. It’s referring to Genesis, but it’s sort of an authorized interpretation of Genesis that the Holy Spirit has given us, and He summarizes the imagery there. We’re looking for key, simple, core, basic imagery. “By the word of the LORD, the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth, all their host.” Psalm 33:9, this is a classic, “For He spoke, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood fast.” So the author of the universe is… what does John the Gospel begin with? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And without Him, was not anything made that was made.” What we’ve got in the Gospel of John, John 1:1 is an interpretation of Genesis. It’s going back to the Genesis text, and it’s emphasizing precisely what is missing in all pagan accounts, that we have a God who speaks. It is the word, it is not procreation, it is speech that brings the universe into existence. That means the universe didn’t grow out of God. It didn’t become part of His anatomy. The universe was spoken into existence and so we now have the imagery in the Bible, and nowhere else, that God is the creator and we are the creature. We are bounded, we are finite, God is the infinite one and He brings us into existence out of his head. He thinks, and it is done.
This has tremendous and awesome implications all across the board in every area. We want to understand the conflict here. The imagery is God speaking. What is the conflict point? What is the point of tension between what the Bible is teaching and what the world insists must be true? As Christians, we want to identify this because this is the battle line. We’re trying to do some “intel” here to find out where the war is. So where’s the war? The war is that from the standpoint of the pagan, we have the creator, if he’s there, he or she, and then we have this scale going down to man, going down further to the animals, going down further to the rocks. It’s all part of one scale. That’s the pagan view.
The Bible view is the Creator/creature distinction. It is not made that way in paganism. That’s where the battleground is; the battle will always be in this area, always has been and always shall be. God is set above His creation. Satan says that God is one of us, super man, maybe, but He’s still one of us, and He can be challenged. This is obviously on Satan’s heart, Satan’s mind because who would challenge the Creator if you really believed it? It would be intuitively obvious that you couldn’t. So the very fact that God is seen as one who can be successfully disobeyed presumes that He is only a degree or two above us and He can be fought, He can be resisted, and he can do it, perhaps, with impunity. All those ideas grow out of this truncated view of God. The Bible starts and refuses to have that word because it doesn’t use reproduction. Here you can have a transmutation up and down the scale. You have the reproductive system up and down the scale. But here you have an artist who creates in His head, and He suddenly builds it. That’s the biblical picture, and there’s the point of tension.
We’ve said that there’s an analogy going on between God and man. We isolated some of God’s attributes. These aren’t all the attributes of God that we isolated, these are just some of the attributes of God, and we want to review those, just to be sure that we have a biblically high view of God. We said that there are attributes that are harder to think about as attributes of a person; we call those the impersonal attributes, though that’s just a convention, and then we have the personal attributes of God. We said, God is omnipresent, and that means that He is immense, that He has infinite size, that He actually is the source of what we call space. God is omnipresent, He is everywhere; there never is a place where God Holy isn’t. That means that when we say the presence of God, we can find the presence of God in a jail cell as well as we can find the presence of God in the Grand Canyon because the presence of God is not dependent on the local molecular arrangements. God is there, fully, everywhere.
We also said that God is omnipotent, that God is the source of what we call energy, that God is never tired, God doesn’t wear out, that God has no internal friction to dissipate energy. God is the source of all energy. We said that God is immutable, that God never changes. That’s the source of stability, that’s what the pagan doesn’t have. In the pagan basis, the universe could disappear tomorrow because all is chance. Only on the Christian basis, the biblical basis, do we have a view that, in fact, tomorrow the universe will be here, not because of something the universe has, but because God has a structure and a plan for history. He is immutable. He doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is eternal, God always exists, He is the source of the finite version of this, which is time.
God is sovereign, which means that He is the top person who makes the decisions. The decisions of history are His, not ours. He is the one who works all things after the counsel of his will. So God is sovereign. God is holy, which means that society is not the source of moral standards. It’s not the latest vote, it’s not the latest Gallop pole, it’s not the mean on the bell-shaped curve. It’s the character of God. God is holy! God has love because God is perfectly secure. He is not threatened; He’s not in any way threatened or vulnerable. God can love, unhindered.
God is omniscient, and therefore, God not only knows everything of history, but God also knows all of the “what ifs” of history. That’s why Jesus could say, when asked how He was going to defend Himself coming to the cross, He said, don’t you think that I could call My Father, and we would have legions of angels here immediately? He had knowledge that that was a real possibility. If it wasn’t, He wouldn’t be attempting to do it. There are all sorts of “what ifs.” He said if you had accepted John the Baptist, that he was Elijah. There’s a “what if” of history, but they didn’t accept John the Baptist, as John the Baptist or as a prophet. They rejected him as they did the Messiah that he bore witness to, so therefore he was not the Elijah, and Elijah is yet to come. All the interesting parts and “what ifs” of history, God knows. God is omniscient, and He’s the source of our knowledge. That’s the biblical full view of God.
Then we said coming out of this is the oath. One other point to make since we’re summarizing all these events. Not only does God speak the universe into existence as one of the key things, that’s Genesis, and that’s the creation event, but there was another event that contributes to our view of God in a very direct way, and that was the Noahic Covenant. God makes a covenant. So not only does the Word create, but the Word also gives a contract. Just like people make contracts God makes contracts, and we said that there’s a reason for that. When you have a contract you’re setting forth on a document standards of behavior as a yardstick to measure the behavior. That’s what a contract is all about. The parties who enter a contract say that they will behave in such and such a way, such that when the behavior is done and finished, it’s verifiable. So the fact is that God makes a contract about His behavior in history, and that makes His record verifiable. That, by the way, is the source of the inerrancy claim of Scripture; if the Scripture is not inerrant then we have no basis for measuring the contract. So the Scriptures are a contract that the Creator of the universe has made.
That’s the picture of the biblical God, One who speaks, One who makes contracts, and that’s the way to talk about the Christian God. That’s what we mean when we use the word G-o-d. We don’t mean chance, we don’t mean fate, we don’t mean some evolutionary process, we don’t mean that God and the universe are somehow tied together. We don’t mean any of those things. This is what we mean, and this is what must precede any invitation to believe on Jesus Christ. If a person is not clear on G-o-d, we can’t talk about sin, we can’t talk about salvation. This must be clear. And, in my experience, 90% of the effort in the gospel is here, not in the area of sin or in the area of explaining Jesus Christ. The problem is that we don’t have a clear view of God. If we have a clear view of God, the rest of it falls pretty fast. But if this is messed up, you can sit there an yak, yak, yak, yak for hours, and not get to first base because of something wrong right here.
Then we have the doctrine of man, man the creature, and man is made in God’s image. Think now in terms of an image, what is the text that you would use to think about man from Genesis? What would be a passage, probably one of the finest artistic renditions that gives you the mental, artistic, poetic, picture of man being created? Genesis 2, God builds man of the dust of the earth. Picture a child conceived of God, the Almighty God taking sand in his hands and sculpturing just like a sculptor, and putting this image on the sand, and it’s an image that looks like Him. And what does He do after He gets through making the body? He sculptures this body, and then He does another thing, because man has two parts, He blows into his nostrils, the first use of CPR. So He puts the spirit in man, and now we have what man is. Why is it necessary that in your mind you take that text very literally? We’re into images. If you will faithfully take that imagery in your head, it acts as an antitoxin to any evolutionary propaganda because, if you think about the imagery, the shape of the human body came about by direct activity of God’s fingers. It wasn’t a chance process.
The problem in biology today is that all forms are ultimately explained as chance arrangements of molecules. It’s just how the marbles wound up when the board was tipped. That’s what we explain as form. So our form, as people, we could have eight ears and one eye just as well as we have two ears and two eyes because that’s just the way the chips fell. That’s not the Scriptural view. The Scriptural view is that our image, over and against the dog, cat, cow, and sheep, man’s image is unique. God says we, the Trinity, will make man in our image. We have to be careful because the Mormons have taken this to mean that the Father has a body, and they get into all this screwball stuff, the Father has married and has children, all this stuff. So the Christian church has tried to keep away from that over the years by saying that the image of God has only to do with the soul. But we have to be careful because when God shows up in Scripture, He never shows up as an animal, He always shows up as a man. Every Theophany in the Bible, God appears as a man, He doesn’t appear as an animal, He doesn’t appear as some sheep. Those are images of Him. But in Theophanies He doesn’t appear that way, He appears as a man, unlike the gods of the ancient world.
In the handout I’ve given some Egyptian art work; we’re going to look at that for next time, and I hope you read that because in that art work, you’ll get a taste how pagan religion views God. One of those pictures in Section A, is a comb, it’s a ladies comb that was dug up from one of the early dynasties. And this woman, apparently a queen, had this image carved on her ivory comb that she put through her hair every night. Notice that on that comb there is the image of the falcon, and the falcon appears in three places on that comb. The first one is in the boat, up at the top that’s a picture of the sun crossing the sky. He also appears with his wings stretched out to the two upright posts; that represents the sky. The most interesting is the falcon is sitting on a box in which there’s a snake and some Egyptian writing and that’s the Pharaoh’s name. What that art work is describing is that the nature of God is represented by the falcon, and it’s true of nature and true of man, what unites is this animal thing and the falcon. The falcon was considered to be a wonderful incarnation of the spirit of god in Egypt, god Horus was his name.
Unlike that, the Bible’s image is that man is made in God’s image. We used a term last year to try to capture this; we call man a theomorph. That is, instead of God being an anthropomorphic image of man; it’s the other way around. Man is an image of God, he is a theomorph, he is made in God’s image. That means that man is different from all else. He is not the same as a primate. He is not the same as a serpent. Man is unique because man, and man alone, has that theomorphic shape. That’s the key imagery. Let us make man in our image, and then visualize God however you want in the privacy of your imagination, however your imagination works. Visualize in some way Genesis 2, and visualize God sculpturing man and blowing into his nostrils the breath of life.
Now, what is the conflict point? Where is the battle line drawn? There is a battle line to be drawn over the character and nature of God over against the world. So also, there’s a battle line over man. And the battle line over man can be summarized in this way; first, the image of God occurs in both body and soul, that man is unique. The counterpoint to this today is that man is not unique, that we could have evolutions here and there throughout the universe, that man is only one of many, many different forms of life, but all are basic life, we are just but one form of life. The Bible insists that we are the only form of life made in God’s image. They say that man ultimately, therefore, instead of being a theomorph, is part of nature. We say that man and nature are different. They say man and nature are part and parcel of each other.
We want to mention some areas of tension about that. Here are some of the areas of tension. We can take some of God’s attributes and make analogies. We will take four attributes of God; His sovereignty, His holiness, His love, and His knowledge and point out that man has analogous attributes. One that man has that corresponds to sovereignty is choice. I predict that is going to be the next great conflict; in the next 20 years, the battle will be fought right here. There’s a science that’s developing very rapidly in all the universities. It’s called neuroscience. The science is a study taking psychology one step further. It’s sort of a combination of psychology and biology and a little electrical engineering. Neuroscience is going to try to argue this, this is the coming conflict—that every thought in your brain is ultimately related to the biochemical structures of your brain, that there’s nothing beyond the biochemistry of your brain, therefore, even moral choices are predetermined by the way your brain developed. Therefore, there isn’t real choice, that everything is stimulus response. In other words, you have the biochemical stimulus, and man has a certain response. That’s the battle ground. We are going to be left in society as the only people who are articulating genuine choice for man. Everyone else will be insisting that everything is bio-chemically determined. You’ve already seen it, you’re seeing it gradually work in the homosexual area. This is just but a preview of coming attractions. It’s going to be all across the board. Everything is determined by biochemical laws of physics. Again, it’s the pagans attempt to explain everything apart from God’s word. So that’s the agenda here. Man has a choice.
Corresponding to holiness is conscience; man as a conscience. The tension point, because this is bad, not one of these is left alone by the world. The world hopes to eradicate, erase, deface, and pervert every one of these truths. We haven’t even got to salvation, yet, we haven’t even got to the gospel, this is all a prelude. We can’t even agree here, but everybody wants to rush to the gospel. The gospel can’t even be spoken of until these basic issues are settled. Then, and only then, do we talk about the gospel. So, man, does he or does he not have a choice? Does he have responsibility? Neuroscience says no. Bible Christianity says yes. And there’s the fight and the battle. Man has a conscience. Sociologists say, no, he really doesn’t, what you call conscience is the result of experience in society, and so moral judgments are relative to a culture. Its relativism, so we have a relativism here due to person’s social upbringing, etc. The Bible insists that man has a conscience, Romans 1. If the Bible was wrong, then God can’t hold us accountable. After all, God could say, gee, you had a poor sociological environment and therefore, I can’t really hold you responsible. But is that the message of Scripture? The message of Scripture is that everybody must come before the judgment seat of God who will give to every man according to his works. The excuse of his poor sociology will not be accepted. So, the battle is here, choice, conscience. Then the issue of man and his love. Basically, on a pagan basis there’s no reason for it because of insecurity; insecurity breeds self-defense, self-defense becomes the highest obtainable goal.
Then we have the knowledge, man’s limited knowledge. The Bible says that man’s knowledge is derivative of God’s knowledge. There’s a correspondence between God’s thoughts and what we call truth. Society says that that’s not true, that man’s knowledge is generated solely internally, in the brain, independently of anything else. So the argument can be phrased this way: the Bible says we discover truth; the pagan says that we invent truth. And you can just use those two verbs, discover and invent, and it will sharpen your thinking about where the boundary is here. Are we discovering something that was there before human beings, or are human beings just imposing an order out of this? All of that is a big battle ground between God, man, and the world system.
Then there’s the doctrine of nature. We won’t go into that area but obviously nature shows the glory of God. Carl Sagan died two weeks ago but there probably wasn’t a better-known science teacher, a very good teacher according to those who knew him well. I am convinced that Carl Sagan saw clearly the glory of God. That’s what stimulated him to do his series, to get excited about things that he saw in the universe. The problem was he willfully perverted the interpretation of what he saw as the glory of God into a process of the universe. He made it pagan. He made it centered on the creation’s rules instead of the Creator.
Before we leave this, this is why I keep showing this because that summarizes this whole issue. It’s all on the chart. I don’t go into the doctrine of man on that chart but, basically, that’s the conflict. That’s the battleground, and you’re going to be in one or the other camp. You can be a very confused person and have pieces from both sides of this diagram floating around your head; that may be, our educational process helps us do that, unfortunately. But I want you to notice this little section of the diagram because in that section of the diagram, I give you locations, specific locations where you see these truths. The doctrine that God is the Creator over and against His creation is found only in four places. It will be found in ancient monotheism, still surviving in some remote tribes; ancient Israel; the Bible; and fundamentalism. You will find it denied in ancient myths all over the world. You’ll find it denied, especially, with great finesse in eastern religions, New Age a very, very good shrewd true denial of this truth; Western philosophy that has been doing this for a number of centuries; and modern theology.
Now we come to the doctrine of evil. We said that the fall was to be found in Genesis 3. Always remember this. Let’s go back there so we can see the conflict once again, and I want to look at one particular verse, loading the mind’s imagination, Genesis 3:17-18. This imagery is basic to the Christian life, it’s picked up in the epistles, it’s picked up in Proverbs, Paul talks about it, the writer to Hebrews talks about it, so we have to fortify ourselves and keep remembering. Verses 17-18 are basic! What was it that most men did at this time in history every day of their life? They worked the ground, they farmed. Men knew what this meant, that you get your food from the ground. And that meant you were vulnerable, if the ground didn’t cooperate, if the weather didn’t cooperate, you didn’t eat. This is quite clear, there’s no Ph.D. required to see this. What it is, is an irony in that what it says, “Cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field;  By the sweat of your face, You shall eat bread.” And this has been ever since. Look particularly at verse 18, “thorns and thistles.” What is a thorn and a thistle? It’s a mutant plant. It has these things, thorns, on it that are really mutant branches. So instead of having branches that bear fruit, you have these stunted things called thorns, and the idea there is fruitlessness. You didn’t cooperate with God, so the ground doesn’t cooperate with you. And this is so hard to master, every day of our lives, we’re fighting an environment that has fallen under our feet. Things don’t go right at work. We face this everyday of our life, it’s frustrating, it’s angering, but the meaning of it all is that we screwed up. The human race, collectively in Adam, fell, and we are still getting the fallout of this.
Evil is something that started and something that ended. Hence, therefore, we show this diagram again and again, we can’t get too much of this. What is the key imagery in Adam’s fall? He’s dying. His wife is dying, and the ground is refusing to produce. That’s the picture of evil; all the other violence, murder, and everything else comes out of that picture. So there’s the imagery of the origin of evil. Now, what’s the conflict? That’s the imagery, what’s the debate that goes on. The debate is right here, the debate is whether or not evil had a beginning and an end. That’s the debate. [blank spot] …as a result of this, which I really should write on this if I ever redo this slide, I’m going to point out that something falls out of this, namely, if this is so, then man is a victim. Man is a victim in the sense that he experiences evil like we might experience something as a genetic defect. It’s not our fault. We are victims of this environment of evil. And therefore, we have no responsibility for the environment of evil. It’s not something that came about by choice. It’s something that’s just somehow there.
In the Bible, this little section, Genesis 1-2, where you have an environment free of evil gives the lie to this idea. It says right there, there was responsibility. And so, on the Scriptural basis, we have the difference between responsibility and victimization. It comes out of the fall. What do we do about that? Operating from the standpoint of the Bible, we cope with evil in a different way than the world copes with it. We said we’d spend some time going through coping strategies. On the basis of the world system, if good and evil and are always present, the only way you can cope with it is to figure out a system of coexistence. We have a mutual agreement to coexist with evil. That forms the basis of every system that the pagan mind and the flesh can do; it will always do several variants of this. Some of those variants are, if you’re really intellectual, it will have this concept of the absurd that the existentialist philosophers have really got to press. This is why if you go see certain ones of these French films and so on, you’ll see where Sartre has had his influence on the film, and you get these existential films where there’s just nothing there, there’s just a lot of human drama with no morals, no judgments, no nothing. That’s what they’re trying to do. The artists in those films are trying to let you see what life is really all about. Sartre had the famous illustration that if you’re driving your car down the road, and you see a lady walking by the side of the road, you have two choices. You can stop and pick her up, or you can run her over, and it really doesn’t make any difference as long as you make a decision. That’s what he said. It would be interesting to go in a courtroom and defend yourself on the fact that you ran over somebody on the side of the road one dark night because you felt like it. But, if there’s no absolute, why is that wrong defense? If our brains are just biochemical determinants, you know, a neuron just flipped out last night when I was driving the car. I mean, hey, I can’t help that, I just felt that way.
We laugh at it, and it is foolish, but once you allow your mind to accept those ideas, logic will force you to go along with that stupidity. And our court system is already going that way. All it needs is another nudge from neuroscience, and then watch what happens. And if we’re not that astute, as the French philosophers, we can cope with it by some form of anesthesia. And basically, that’s what alcohol, drugs, and everything else is. It copes with this treating it with a policy of …we’ll just call it anesthesia. That’s a good way because if you have an anesthetic, what does an anesthetic do? What’s its function? To reduce pain. If the presence of evil is always there, and you can’t get rid of it, what do you do? You take a sort of modified aspirin. Isn’t this what drugs is all about? You want a kick. Why do you want a kick? Because life is just empty, boring, vain, and that’s painful. Of course, people are never stopping to think, why is it painful? It’s painful because I wasn’t designed to live in a boring existence. So we have the various forms of anesthetic. So every system of the flesh copes with evil through some system of anesthesia, and you can use your imagination, and the world has done it very well.
From the Christian point of view, how do we handle the problem of suffering? We sharply distinguish our viewpoint from the pagan viewpoint. We have to go back and look at one of those key passages in the Bible. In the middle of suffering, one of the images to remember, if you want an image, of how God would act when you complain to Him is Job 38-42. Read it once in a while to refresh your mind because in that passage you have God confronting a man who is in utter dire straits, who has suffered psychologically, physiologically, socially, he’s suffered in every area that you could possibly suffer in, Job suffered. Every area! It’s a neat test case to figure out what it would be like if God were to directly speak to you in the middle of your suffering situation.
What you find in Job 38-42 is that God comes on kind of strong, and He comes on with a demand that we answer to Him, that He is not going to answer to us. He changes the whole discussion because when we gripe and we complain, we want Him to answer to us, we are suffering, You give us the answers. When God comes to Job, He says, I am the Creator, you give Me the answers. So what does that do besides get us kind of hurt, irritated, and angry? What it does, it’s a wake-up call to our position, and we need that wake-up call because every time we’re in the middle of one of these things, we always wind up in some form of self-pity. So the first way that God handles it is a wake-up call, and by that, we mean the way God acts in that passage, which is to confront Job with who God is.
If you look at all the questions God asked Job, not one has to do with Job’s suffering. Now, isn’t that amazing? Everything, the whole book is full of Job’s suffering, all the discussions about why did this happen, why did that happen? And then when God starts in, He says, “Who am I? Who am I?” It’s almost to say, He’s saying to Job, Get your eyes on me. It’s a therapeutic approach that God uses that sting because it doesn’t sound merciful when it happens. You can read that passage, it is not very warm, cuddly, and fuzzy. And we have to ask why God doesn’t be a little bit more compassionate. And I think the answer is because He’s trying to get us refocused on Him because He knows, ultimately, that is where we get the warm-fuzzies. But we’re not going to get the warm-fuzzies by looking for them. We have to put them aside for a moment, and look at Him and who we are. So it gets back to the Creator/creature thing.
Then we said that there are certain areas where God has His plan. And the problem is we can’t know the details of what is going on in our suffering situation. That’s what’s so frustrating. Why does the child die? Why does the tragic accident happen to the best of people? With all the clods around, why don’t they have accidents? Why? The perennial question always arises, why? And that means that we really, secretly, in our hearts believe there is a plan. Think about it. We wouldn’t be asking why if we didn’t think that there was a purpose there; we want to find it. So our hearts are built to ask “why” questions, nothing wrong with that. But the Bible says that God chooses to reveal his plan sometimes, and then other times He chooses not to. That must mean that the solution to my suffering can’t be Him telling me His plan because He doesn’t always tell me His plan. So I can’t make that the general solution. The general solution has to be something else other than finding out what is happening in this situation. What I have to come to is more or less a weaker version, which is that there is a plan, and there is a reason for it, I don’t know it, but I trust God with it. And that’s hard because it’s our nature, our fallen nature and I think, part of it is our design of God because God has designed us to communicate with Him and to reason and to have a sense of what is right and wrong. It’s hard to say there’s a reason for this tragedy, this horror, but somehow it all fits together in the end. The only way you can do that is to have an awful lot of confidence in the nature of God, and that is a struggle, that is not easy, that is hard, there’s the path of tears of going through that.
However, there are some helps in the Scripture to start that path of thought. We mentioned eleven rationales that you can find in the Scripture, probably you can find more, but we gave eleven possibilities. These are just helps; this is not intended to be the final answer of anything. These are just ways to get the brain moving in these times of tragedy. You can divide the rationales into those that apply in a direct way, and those that apply in an indirect way in your life. The rationales that are direct mean that this suffering is directly related to something that you have been involved in, some decision that you have made.
Let’s look at some of these reasons. The first direct rational would be the fall. Somehow, we don’t know how, but we were all involved with Adam in that fall. And if you’ve filled your mind with the thorns and the thistles from Genesis 2 and you have the suffering situation, then you know that this is a thorn and a thistle, and somehow, it is because of my identity with Adam. Now that doesn’t solve everything, it doesn’t make the tears go away. But it can, at last, begin to have a sense in your heart that this just didn’t happen randomly. There’s a purpose behind it. We said furthermore, the Scriptures say, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” That’s Galatians 6. And in that situation, it’s self-induced misery, that I induced a lot of it by my choices. I can’t blame anybody else, it’s my choice, I did that. And that’s humbling to deal with.
Then we said that another source of a direct approach to this is because I am in linkage with marriage, family, and nation that are doing these things. So where you have a nation and a society involved in aberrant lifestyles, rebelling against God in a corporate and a legal basis, then everybody’s going to suffer. And I’m part of the country, so I suffer with it. Then we had various others, we had the Lake of Fire, we had God temporally disciplining in the communion service, we always read 1 Corinthians 11. It says people die. People can become physically sick. People can be emotionally sick by their own disobedience. We said, also, there’s the Bema Seat. So there’s many, many direct ways.
On the indirect side God causes people to suffer in order to evangelize. Often it’s a suffering situation that awakens someone to the gospel. We’ve seen in funerals where people are led to the lord, particularly young people who think they’re super people, then one of them gets hit with tragedy and all of a sudden, wait a minute, I am mortal. You really don’t believe in your own mortality when you’re under thirty, and then the older you get the more you realize that you are mortal. But young people have a hard time really understanding that they’re mortal until something happens. So that’s a classic approach. Another way is to get us growing, a sort of sanctification nudge. And then we have those other mysterious reasons such as a testimony to believers, a testimony even to angels. So there’s a wad of these rationales available in Scripture. They’re not the total solution; they’re just triggers and little pieces of scriptural thoughts to sort of get things thought through and to be able to come to that point where we can trust Him.
We’ve gone through a lot of this review, and I hope that this will get us prepared when we hit the Exodus event. Look at those notes, and read, particularly from about Exodus 4–20; if you’re very limited for time, at last try to read from Exodus 10–14, that’s the center of the Exodus event. We want to look at the imagery of this event, the historicity of the event, and its meaning. So the first set of notes that we have given out have to do with the background of why God had to do the Exodus. What was going on at that point?