Characteristics of a "Christian" (Psalm 15:1-5)


"Who shall dwell on your holy hill?" (Ps 15:1; ESV)


  1. What is Psalm 15:1 asking (Ps 24:3; Isa 33:14)? What 2 ideas does God's "tent" suggest (Exo 29:42; Ps 27:4; 84:1-2)?
  2. What are the 12 ethical requirements which focuses on life-and-lip qualities (Ps 15:2-5)? What does this tell us about the man's character, words, allegiance, dealings and place?
  3. How can a man never be shaken (Ps 15:5c; 16:8; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2,6)?
Who can come in the presence of God (Ps 15:1)? God's reply is not a list of rituals, but a searching of the conscience (Ps 15:2-5; 24:3-6; Isa 33:14-17). It reveals the pure in heart, a man after God's own heart, a "Christian" who loves and honors God.

God's "tent" (and holy mountain/hill) conjures 2 ideas: worship/sacrifice (Exo 29:42) and hospitality. Man comes to God to worship, but he also comes as an willing invited guest (Ps 27:4; 84:1-2). The encounter is both one of awe and friendship, transcendence and immanence, holy and personal. Notice the 12 ethical requirements (Ps 15:2-5), which focuses on life-and-lip qualities. The qualities described are those that God creates in a man, not those he finds in himself:

  1. Blameless: not sinless, but whole, wholehearted and sound. His lifestyle exhibits integrity.
  2. Does what is right/righteous: promotes happiness. His deeds exhibit justice.
  3. Speaks the truth: not merely correct but what is trustworthy. His speech exhibits reliability.
  4. Tongue utters no slander, which has the meaning of "going around," spying things out, spreading them abroad.
  5. Does no wrong to a neighbor: He does not harm his fellow man.
  6. Casts no slur on others (Prov 10:12).
  7. Despises a vile person. His allegiance is clear cut, not Pharisaical but loyalty and declaring what he admires and where he stands (Gen 14:17-24).
  8. Honors those who fear the Lord: He respects the people of God.
  9. Keeps an oath to his own hurt: He holds himself accountable.
  10. Does not change: He is not fickle.
  11. Lends money to the poor without interest: He is not greedy or exploitative.
  12. Does not accept a bribe: He cannot be bought.
"Whoever does these things will never be shaken (moved)" (Ps 15:5c). The threat of insecurity expressed often in the Psalms by the word "moved" is met not by siding with the strong, but by steadfast  trust in God. Psalm 16:8 says, "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand I will not be shaken."


  1. Psalms 1-72, Derek Kidner, 1973: A Man After God's Heart
    1. God as man's host (Ps 15:1)
    2. Man as God's guest (Ps 15:2-5)
      1. His character: true (Ps 15:2).
      2. His words: restrained (Ps 15:3).
      3. His allegiance: clear cut (Ps 15:4).
      4. His dealings: honorable (Ps 15:4c-5).
      5. His place: secured (Ps 15:5c).
  2. MacArthur Study Bible, 2006: Description of a Citizen of Zion
    • A 12 part response (Ps 15:2-5) to a 2 part question (Ps 15:1).
  3. Reformation Study Bible, 2005: Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?
    • The 10 requirements for approaching God's presence (Ps 15:2-5) are ethical, not formal or liturgical.
  4. ESV Study Bible, 2008.

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How David Expressed His Thanksgiving (2 Samuel 9:1-13)


"I will surely show you kindness" (2 Sam 9:7).

Being thankful is so darn hard. Why? It's so much easier to be angry and upset with others!

2 things that seem to deeply upset and anger us is when we think or feel that we were unappreciated or disrespected. We just can't get over feeling dissed or disregarded, regardless of whether or not others intended to do so. This bothers us so deeply and profoundly, because we so naturally default to self-centeredness and self-righteousness, which are common expressions of selfishness. So, how can we be thankful when we feel angry, upset, disrespected, unappreciated, disregarded?

To be thankful we must know that Being Thankful is a Response, not a Command. Luke 17:7-19 suggests that thanksgiving requires that we acknowledge 2 things:

  1. We deserve nothing, even after we have done our best (Lk 17:7-10).
  2. We need Jesus more than what our hearts desire (Lk 17:11-19).
When we do our best, we invariably expect some reward, either from God or others. But such an attitude will not result in thanksgiving, because we are then only getting the reward that we believe we deserve. Therefore, only when we know that we deserve no good thing, can we be truly thankful. Only "unworthy servants" (Lk 17:10) are thankful and happy.

As fallen beings, what our hearts desperately want should always be questioned, even if what we want is a good thing. The fact that 10 lepers cried out to Jesus to heal them is a good thing. Jesus healed all 10 of them. But only 1 returned to give thanks and "praise to God" (Lk 17:17). What's the problem of the other 9? They wanted to be cured of their leprosy (a good thing) more than they wanted Jesus. Thus, only when Jesus is all I want and need as my utmost treasure, will we be truly thankful. Otherwise, we will only "use" Jesus to get what I want.

Our thanksgiving sermon is a short narrative about David and Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9:1-13). It teaches us about "chesed", which is a rich Hebrew word that is translated "kindness" (2 Sam 9:1,3,7), "loving kindness," "steadfast love," "loyal love." It shows us how David expressed his thanksgiving practically. To David, his expression of thanksgiving was:

  1. A top priority
  2. Surprising
  3. Promise-driven
Previous post: David's "Chesed" Love.

1) David's thanksgiving sought for a way to show kindness as a top priority when he finally became king after years of hardship (2 Sam 9:2-6). Some questions to ponder about "chesed":

  • How aggressive is your love for people?
  • Are you on the look out for people to love?
  • Can you love people who can't pay you back, or who might even be your enemy?
2) David's thanksgiving, expressed as "chesed" kindness toward Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, was "over-the-top" generous. Jonathan asked David to not cut off his family (1 Sam 20:14-15). But David went far beyond what Jonathan asked (2 Sam 9:7,9-10).
  • Is our love like this?
  • Is it over-the-top, surprising in its generosity?
  • Does it think through and address the particulars?
  • Is it directed toward the "lame"--those who are in no position to reciprocate?
  • Does it find special joy in conferring honor upon others?
  • Is it fearless, reaching out to those who might turn out to be our enemies?
  • Is it costly?
3) David's thanksgiving and "chesed" is promise-driven, arising from faithfulness to pledges earlier made (2 Sam 9:1,7). David is like God who swore to his own hurt (Ps 15:4). God's love is a love that honors--a love that keeps a promise and is willing to pay any price. As displayed movingly in David's first act as king, God's love is:
  • a love that takes the initiative,
  • a love that is over-the-top generous,
  • a love that is costly,
  • a love that is thoughtful and particular,
  • a love that never wanders from promises that have been made.
What is the source and the power behind such love? It is to know that:
  • I am nothing but a "crippled dead dog, lame in both feet" (2 Sam 9:8,13), and yet...
  • I am loved, well provided for, and highly honored (2 Sam 9:7-13).
3 questions:
  • How can you and I know this?
  • How can we be thankful like David who gave "everything" to Mephibosheth?
  • How can we be thankful like Mephibosheth who received "everything" completely free of charge?
We have to be a Mephibosheth before we can be a David. David knew he was a "dead dog" whom God delivered only by his grace. Thus he could be gracious and generious toward another "dead dog" Mephibosheth. Ultimately, we can be thankful:
  • Only through Jesus who is the true David who loves, provides for, and honors us more than David loved Mephibosheth.
  • Only through Jesus who is the true Jonathan because of whom we are so loved with every blessing (Eph 1:3).
2 Practical Applications/Ministry Implications (simul justus et peccator):
  1. We are humbled. Why? We are spiritually like a "crippled dead dog, lame in both feet."
  2. We are bold and confident. Why? We have been loved, provided for and so highly honored by God through Christ, and it is not at all because of me or my performance or merit.
Only in Christ, we are "honored failures" and "righteous sinners." No matter how "good" we become we are still sinful. No matter how sinful we are, we are still honored and loved because of what Christ has done for me on the Cross. When we deeply apply our status as both "honored failures" and "righteous sinners," thanksgiving overflows in our hearts through Jesus Christ.


  1. After David was established as king over all Israel (2 Sam 8:15), what was the first thing he did (2 Sam 9:1)? Look up the meaning of "chesed" or "hesed." Whom did David find (2 Sam 9:2-6)? Why was David like this (Lk 19:10; Jn 4:23)? How aggressive is our love for people?
  2. Who is Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9:6)? What had Jonathan once asked David (1 Sam 20:14-15)? How great is David's love (2 Sam 9:7)? What is the cost of love (Rom 5:6,8)? How generous is our love for others?
  3. What was the motivation/driving force behind David's kindness (2 Sam 9:1,7)? How is God like this (Gen 3:15; Ps 15:4)?
  4. Should we love this way? Why? How? Where do we find the power to love like this (Ps 27:1; 1 Jn 4:19)? How can I be sure of such love when I am so "lame, crippled and like a dead dog" (2 Sam 9:3,8,13)?
  5. Who is the only one worthy of God's "chesed" (Mt 17:5)? How did Jesus lose it all (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 16:34)? Why is Jesus our true David and our true Jonathan (1 Jn 3:1-2; Rom 8:32; 2 Cor 5:21)?

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Being Thankful is a Response, not a Command (Luke 17:1-19)


Thursday, Nov 24, is Thanksgiving Day. But being thankful is so darn hard. One painful reason is that we expect rewards and commendation for our good works. So instead of being thankful, we expect reward for "good Christian behavior."

Truth be told, there is always SOMEONE we are upset with, or angry about, or hurt by, or disappointed with. What are the reasons? They disrespected me. They disregarded me. They gossiped about me. They slandered me. They lied about me. They did not support me. They cared only about themselves. They don't love me. They caricatured me. The reason could even be, "They are not thankful." It is almost comical to say or feel, "I am so unhappy and unthankful because that guy is so unthankful!"

According to the Bible, how can we be thankful?

Luke 17:1-19 seem to be isolated disconnected teachings of:

  • Jesus teaching his disciples about sin (1-4), faith (5-6), and duty (7-10).
  • Jesus' healing of 10 men with leprosy (11-19).
How are these seemingly separate teachings related? How do they connect together?

My theme is that "Thankfulness is a response, not a command." My thesis is 2 fold:

  • No one can be thankful or happy if they think they are owed something from God or others. No one can be thankful if they think that their sacrifice, faithfulness and good works obligates God and others to reward or honor them.
  • No one can be thankful or happy if they strongly desire something else more than Jesus.
3 Things Christians should always do (Jesus' teaching about sin): Jesus' teaching about sin is that his disciples should do 3 things (Lk 17:1-4):
  1. Never cause others to sin/stumble (1-3a).
  2. Always confront others' sin (3b).
  3. Always forgive others when they sin against you (4).
How easily do we cause others to sin! It could just be a subtle look or a body gesture of disgust, and we might cause others to sin.

How can we always confront others when they sin? It is easy to smash others by self-righteously pointing out their sins. It is easier to ignore others when they sin. To truly confront others when they sin requires deeply bearing the pain and grief of their sin, and approaching them gently with humility, tears and trembling (Gal 6:1).

How can we always forgive others when they have deeply hurt us or betrayed us? How do we forgive others, not just once or twice, but 7 times (Lk 17:4), and then 70 X 7 times (Mt 18:22)?

Increase our faith (Jesus' teaching about faith): When the disciples heard the 3 things Jesus said about sin, they knew it was impossible for them to do. They cried out, "Increase our faith!" (Lk 11:5) Jesus' response was not that they needed a greater quantity of faith, but they simply needed faith, even "faith as small as a mustard seed" (Lk 11:6), which is proverbially the smallest of seeds. How can our faith increase? Luke tells us Jesus' parable of a nasty landowner (Lk 17:7-10), followed by Jesus' healing of 10 lepers (Lk 17:11-19), which teaches us 2 things about faith:

  1. Faith is knowing that our good works do not count (Lk 17:7-10).
  2. Faith is treasuring Jesus more than our heart's desire (Lk 17:11-19).
God is not obligated to you by your good works (Jesus' teaching about duty): This is really a hard and bitter teaching (Lk 17:7-10). When we do good we want and expect respect, honor and appreciation. But our faith is that just as God does not hold our sins against us, God also cannot credit our good works to us. Why not? All of our good works and righteous acts are tainted by selfish impure motives (Isa 64:6), even the selfish motive of being honored and recognized! So, we are upset if we don't get it.

What do you want more: Jesus or your heart's desire? (Jesus healed 10 lepers) When Jesus healed 10 lepers, only 1 returned to thank Jesus. If they were asked whether or not they were thankful, the other 9 would surely answer "Yes!" Yet Jesus lamented, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Lk 17:17-18) The other 9 would insist that they are thankful for being healed of their leprosy. But their actions testified otherwise. Though they were "thankful" to Jesus for healing and blessing them, their heart's desire was to be cured of their leprosy, which they already received. In effect, they no longer needed Jesus, since they already got from Jesus what they wanted. Only 1 man truly loved and valued and treasured Jesus more than being cured of his leprosy. Only 1 man out of 10 was truly, deeply thankful.

The Bible says, "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thess 5:18). It is an imperative command. Yet it can only be obeyed in response to what we are thankful for. When we think we are worthy of something, anything, we will not be thankful and happy. But if we know that we are unworthy servants, we will be thankful and happy. If we are overcome by our natural desires, our emotions sway with the wind. But if Jesus is our ultimate Treasure, we will be happy, like the thankful leper.

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Thanksgiving Is Knowing That My Good Works Do Not Count (Luke 17:7-10)


"We are unworthy servants..." (Luke 17:10)

What is your posture before God? As Christians, do we have the posture of a trembling, undeserving, unworthy sinner before God, no matter how hard we have faithfully worked, served and sacrificed for our church and for others?

This is a very, very painful and bitter thought: God can never ever credit any of my good works to me.

Why is my good works not being credited to me so painful and bitter? Even if we mentally acknowledge that this is true (Eph 2:8-9), we often do not feel or act accordingly. We all get upset if we think that others do not appreciate our efforts or our faithfulness. Why is this biblical truth so hard to swallow? It is because all of life suggests otherwise: If we study hard we get good grades. If we do what our boss/leader expects, he is pleased. But it doesn't work like this with God. Why not?

  • Our best efforts fall short of God’s requirements (Rom 3:10-12,23).
  • Our hearts are deceptively faulty and deceitful (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9).
  • Before God’s eyes of perfection, there is nothing good in us (Rom 7:18,23-24).

Was this hard for Martin Luther? The 16th century German Reformer Martin Luther understood how "exceedingly bitter" it is that God loves us only through our faith and by his grace alone, and never though our good works. Luther wrote,

"Even though we (Christians) are now in faith ... the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say: After all I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account ... But it cannot be done. Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter it is ... I myself have been preaching and cultivating it (the message of grace) ... for almost 20 years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness. And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace; yet (I know that) this is what I should and must do."

What do I believe and what do I feel? Even if I believe what the Bible says about undeserved grace, it is still so easy to feel that God owes me his favor for my holy living and faithful service. No matter how long we have been a Christian we default to our work righteousness. We subconsciously relate to God on the basis of my attempts at holy living. Sadly, we also relate to other Christians (and non-Christians) on the basis of their performance of Christian duties (or on their living morally and rightly).

Do you truly feel like an unworthy servant? To illustrate that God is not obligated to us by our good works, Jesus told a very unpleasant and painful parable about an ungrateful and unappreciative landowner (Luke 17:7-10), who seems to care less about his servants. He overworks them all day in the fields. He does not care if they are tired, hungry, sick, or discouraged. He seems concerned only about how well his own fields and flocks are doing, and about being served for his own comfort and convenience. Why does Jesus suggest that God is like this unsympathetic and nasty landowner?

A way that this parable should NEVER be taught is to tell our fellow Christians that no matter how hard you work, serve or sacrifice, you should just be thankful and not to expect anything from God or others (even though this is true). What shouldn't we do this? It is because we are not God or Jesus! We are all equally fellow servants and fellow beggars of his grace.

What is the secret of being thankful? Jesus simply wants his disciples to know that God is a God of grace. Just as our sins do not stop God from loving us, our good works do not obligate God to give us his blessing. That our gracious God loves us fully despite our sin also implies that God does not account our good works as the reason that he must show us his affection.

This is the secret of being thankful. If I think that I earned or deserve something from God or others, I will never truly thankful, because I am just getting what I think I deserve. But if I truly and deeply know that I have received everything only by the grace of Jesus, then I can be genuinely thankful for his marvelous undeserved grace that is greater than all my sins.

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How Can God Expect Me To Be Blameless? (Gen 17:1-27)


I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless (Gen 17:1).

Previous passages: How the Divine Deals with our Doubts (Gen 15:1-21); See The God Who Sees You (Gen 16:1-16)

What is Genesis about? Jesus says that Genesis is about Jesus, for Moses, who wrote Genesis, wrote about Jesus (Jn 5:46). We want to study Genesis and find how it points to Christ (Lk 24:27,44). Genesis tells the story of Creation, the Fall of Man resulting in God's judgment on man and the world, and God's plan to save man and restore the world. How would God do this? By calling 1 man Abraham, through whom God would send the Messiah to save us from our sins.

The Covenant: Gen 17:1-27 occurs 23 years after God called Abraham. God promised to make him into "a great nation" (Gen 12:2). In Gen 17:5, God promised to make him "a father of many nations." The key word in this passage is "covenant," which occurs 14 times (NIV, 2011). What is a covenant? A web definition is "an agreement between God and his people in which God makes certain promises and requires certain behavior from them in return." Gen 17:1-27 shows us that God's covenant with Abraham required him and his household to be circumcised. Let's study about the covenant in 4 parts:

  1. What the covenant is: God's grace (Gen 15:1-16:16).
  2. What the covenant requires: Walk blamelessly before God (Gen 17:1-8, 15-22).
  3. What the covenant commands: Circumcision (Gen 17:9-14, 23-27).
  4. What the covenant means: God will be our God, and we will be his people (Gen 17:7-8).
  1. What it is
  2. What it requires
  3. What it commands
  4. What it means
  1. Why does God reveal himself as "God Almighty" (Gen 17:1)? What does this suggest about how we should live (1 Chron 28:9)? Explain coram deo (Gen 3:8). How can we not be cut off when we are not able to walk blamelessly (Isa 53:8; Lk 2:21; Gal 3:13)? What do the new names of Abram and Sarai signify (Gen 17:3-6, 15-16)? Why was this hard for Abram (Gen 17:17-22)? What did he do (Gen 17:23-27)?
  2. How is the covenant of Gen 17:1-16 similar/different from the covenant in Gen 15:9-19? Why is it significant that God's oath came first before Abram's oath (Rom 4:9-11)? How is the gospel different from religion (Ex 12:13, 20:2-17)?
  3. How is circumcision the sign of being God's covenant people (Gen 17:9-11; Dt 10:16, 30:6; Jer 4:4)? Why is community crucial (Gen 17:12-13,23,27; Heb 10:24; Gal 3:28)? How does Jesus' cross shed light on circumcision (Col 2:11-12; Rom 2:29)?
I. What the Covenant is: Grace

God's covenant is a covenant of grace (Gen 15:1-17:17). What is grace? Grace comes to us when we don't deserve it, when we are not seeking it, when we resist it again and again, and even after we have received it we do not appreciate it. In Gen 15:1-21, God "walked between the pieces" and promised to unilaterally bless Abraham at great cost to himself. In Gen 16:1-16, after receiving abundant grace, Abraham acted like a non-believer by conceiving an illegitimate child through a concubine. Abraham failed completely...for 13 years. But God comes to him again...in grace.

II. What the Covenant Requires: Be Blameless

There is a serious misunderstanding of grace. Some Christians think that because they are saved by grace, then what they do or fail to do is not so important. Though God's covenant with Abraham is based on grace, yet God said to him, "Be blameless." The Hebrew word translated "blameless" does not mean "sinless" but "whole." It signifies complete, unqualified surrender. Abram is to be wholly devoted to God. God's covenant of grace will benefit only those who walk before God and are blameless. Grace never makes obedience optional (Jn 14:15). When God removes good works as a condition for his acceptance, he does not remove righteousness as a requirement for life. We cannot undermine legitimate standards of the Bible without grave consequences. God does not love us because we obey him, but we cannot know the blessings of his love without obedience. Resting on God's grace does not relieve us of our holy obligations. Our holy obligation requires that we live coram deo: live before the gazing eyes of God. "Walk before God" is a call to 3 things:

  1. Know God personally.
  2. Obey God.
  3. Grow continually.
When we live blamelessly and wholeheartedly before God in his grace, we will:
  1. be fruitful (Gen 17:2,4,6; 1:18). We bear inner fruit (Gal 5:22-23) and outer fruit.
  2. change (Gen 17:5,15-16). God changes us from selfish/self-centered to God/other centered.
  3. experience everlasting and temporal blessings (Gen 17:7-8): Kingdom of God and peace on earth.
III. What the Covenant Commands: Circumcision

Circumcision brought God's people into a:

  1. relationship with God. It is our personal, individual surrendering of our heart to God.
  2. relationship with others. It is our communal commitment to community.
No Christian ever grows to maturity without giving his heart to God and to others in community. Abraham needed to "cut" his heart's attachment to Ishmael (Gen 17:18), and yield it to God. Abraham needed to believe God's almighty power to give him and his barren wife a son in their old age (Gen 17:19,21), through whom the Messiah would come.

IV. What the Covenant Means: God will be our God

The ultimate purpose of the covenant (of the Bible) is "to be your God and the God of your descendants" (Gen 17:7). God simply says, "I will be their God" (Gen 17:8). Why does God want to be our God? It is not because God needs us to complete himself (Acts 17:25). But God does love us. God wants to be our God not for any personal ego reasons, but because God knows that God being our God is the only way that we can ever be truly happy. When we live as though we are god who knows what is best for ourselves, we loose our peace and joy sooner or later.

No one is able to walk before God blamelessly, save One. Only Jesus ever did all that the Father wanted (Jn 8:29). Jesus is the only One who deserves all the covenant blessings. But instead, Jesus was "cut off" and cursed for living blamelessly (Isa 53:8; Gal 3:13). Why? So that we who fail to walk before God blamelessly and should be cut off, can be blessed. This is grace. This is how God kept his covenant.

Pray that because of the grace of Jesus, God may enable us to be children of obedience, and people of community.

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The Lord Came Down To See (Genesis 11:1-9)


"But the LORD came down to see..." (Genesis 11:5).

From this week we resume our study of Genesis. I had given 8 sermons from Gen 3:1-24 (The Fall of Man) to Gen 28:10-22 (The Stairway to Heaven) before I left for the Philippines for 2 months in July 2011. However, we did not study every passage from Genesis chap. 3 to 28. My plan now is to fill in the gaps and continue to the end of Genesis by early 2012.

Why do we study Genesis? What is the point of Genesis? More fundamentally, what is the Bible about? Briefly, the Bible is NOT a book of morals or instructions (even though it has both). It is a STORY. The story of the whole Bible can be summarized in 4 words:

  1. Creation.
  2. Fall.
  3. Redemption.
  4. Restoration.
Genesis is crucial to the understanding and foundation of Christianity and the Bible because it teaches us clearly about the Creation (Gen 1-2), the Fall of Man (Gen 3), and about God's plan to redeem fallen man (Gen 3:15), beginning from 1 man Abraham (Gen 12:2-3), through whom God would send the Savior of the world (Jn 4:42; 1 Jn 4:14).

What is the point of Genesis? It is NOT to emulate the patriarchs or the heroes in Genesis, for they are all flawed people. Why not? Abraham was a coward. Sarah was mean and harsh. Isaac was spiritually blind and showed favoritism. Rebekah tried to play God and taught her son Jacob the art of deception. Jacob was a nasty fellow in every way imaginable. Joseph was an insensitive sociopath in his youth before God disciplined him through slavery and imprisonment. The point of Genesis cannot be to be to be like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Joseph.

What does Jesus say that Genesis is about? Jesus said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me" (John 5:46). Jesus also said, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). Jesus said that Genesis is about JESUS.

From her book, The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones rightly explains what the Bible is not before she beautifully explains what the Bible is. She writes:

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose), they get afraid and run away. At times, they’re downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne–everything–to rescues the ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is–it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in the puzzle–the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

I pray that God may help us to see this beautiful picture and learn about Jesus as we study each passage in Genesis.

Previous/related posts: Sin, Faith and Salvation (Gen 6:1-14); Divine Judgment (Gen 6:5-13); Am I Really That Bad? (Gen 6:5).

The familiar story of the tower of Babel can easily be divided into 2 parts (Gen 11:1-4; 5-9) as Rebellion (Man's) and Response (God's), or the Sin and the Solution. Though it is an ancient story, it is quite contemporary, for man in his sin and rebellion continues to build our own towers of Babel. I had previously blogged on this: Babel: Let's Do Away With God (Gen 11:1-9). Let's think of this passage in 3 parts:

  1. How We Sin (Gen 11:1-4)
  2. Why We Sin (Gen 11:4)
  3. The Solution of Sin (Gen 11:5-9): What God does
I. How We Sin (Gen 11:1-4)

Misery loves company. No one sins alone. We cooperate with others to justify our own sins, and move away (usually gradually) from God (Gen 11:1-3). Like the people of babel we sin by:

  1. building a city (Gen 11:4).
  2. building a tower that reaches to the heavens (Gen 11:4).
Why do we do this?

II. Why We Sin (Gen 11:4)

  1. The love of praise (make a name for yourself; exalt or glorify self).
  2. The love of security (build a city and not risk going out to fill the earth).
III. The Solution of Sin (Gen 11:5-9): What God does
  1. God knows them (Gen 11:5).
  2. God laments at them (Gen 11:6).
  3. God confuses them (Gen 11:7).
  4. God scatters them (Gen 11:8).
Gen 11:5 says, "But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building." God came down to see... God is omniscient. God knows and sees everything, including all the hidden secrets and inclination of our hearts (Gen 6:5,12; 1 Chron 28:9). It is the narrator's way of showing the folly of man before the all knowing God. How foolish is any man to think that he can accomplish anything and succeed against the purpose of God!

God came down to see... This also hints at the heart of God toward his fallen children. Man, who is of the earth, foolishly thinks that he is able, by his own meager effort, to reach heaven or to find his own happiness. God, who occupies the highest heaven and lives in everlasting light and security, has no reason to leave his domain. Yet he came down to see the folly of man and live among them (Jn 1:14). God came down and became like the foolish, so that we who are foolish, may be enlightened. God, who lives in an ivory palace, descended to the lowest depths, so that we, who are mired in the valley of sin and shame, may be rescued. We are too low to ascend, due to our sins. God is too high to descend, due to his holiness. But heaven down and glory filled my soul.

When God came down, he confused their language and scattered them (Gen 11:7-9). God did so to prevent their escalation of rebellion (Gen 11:6), which would warrant God's severer judgment. What hope is there for man in such a world of rebellion and arrogance? God confuses and scatters the inhabitants of Babel in order to restore his kingdom of earth. Out of this world of rebellion and idolatry (Josh 24:2), God would call one man Abraham (Josh 24:3), and through his seed, Jesus Christ, God would save the world (Gal 3:16). When Jesus died at Calvary, he took away "the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). After Jesus rose again, he commanded his disciples, "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19).

The people of Babel will never ultimately succeed, but be totally destroyed (Rev 18:2,10). In this passage, God scatters the inhabitants of Babel in order to restore his kingdom on earth. This gives hope to God's people today that our sovereign Lord is able to break down secular kingdoms in order to restore his kingdom on earth.

God's promise to bless the nations (Gen 12:3) was initially fulfilled at Pentacost when Jesus' followers "were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:4-5). This resulted in amazing unity among people from different nations (Acts 2:41-47). Pentacost reversed the judgment of Babel, which is the city of man, the city of autonomy and rebellion. One day, the new Jerusalem, the city of God, will replace Babel entirely when Christ returns (Rev 21:1-4).

How can I know this? Only through the gospel. Like Babel, we are confused and scattered wanderers because of our willful rebellion and sins. Truly this is our destiny. "But the LORD came down to see..." Ultimately, God's coming would be costly. He would go to the Cross, where our sins were laid on him. God's full wrath fell upon him. Jesus was not just confused and scattered, but he was ripped apart and deconstructed (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34). In this way, Jesus descended from the highest heavenly light to deepest depth of destruction. Why? So that we who are confused and scattered may be enlightened and brought home. Jesus became completely lost so that we may be found (Lk 19:10).

Do you understand this? To the degree that you do, you will no longer live in confusion, but live in everlasting light (Isa 60:19-20; Jn 8:12). Your heart will be transformed by the grace of Jesus that is greater than all our sins. We can become people of the gospel. We can become a gospel community. We can respond to all others in grace, because we have tasted and know of the grace of Jesus who lost all things, so that we who are lost can gain and obtain all things.


  1. What is the advantage of a common language (Gen 11:1)? Why did people move east (Gen 11:2; 3:24; 4:16)? In Gen 11:4, notice 2 expressions of rebellion and 2 underlying motives (sins) of man (Gen 3:5; Dan 4:30)?
  2. Why is "making a name for oneself" defying God (Isa 14:13; 63:12,14; Jer 32:20; Neh 9:10)? How can a man's name become great (12:2; 2 Sam 7:9; Phil 2:9-11)? Why is "not wanting to be scattered" a sin against God (Gen 1:28; 9:1; Isa 12:4)?
  3. Notice God's 4 responses to man's rebellion (Gen 11:5-9). Think about the irony of God who "sees" them "reaching for the heavens" (Gen 11:5; 6:5,12; Ps 2:1-4; Isa 40:21-23). Notice the phrase "Come, let us..." (Gen 11:3,4,7). Whose "let us" prevailed (Gen 11:8-9)?
  4. The Hebrew for "confused" is "balal," while Babel means "gate of the God." What is the narrator communicating in this wordplay?
  5. What is the message of hope for Israel (Num 13:28; Deut 1:28; 3:5; 9:1; Jer 51:53)? For us (Gen 11:10-32; 12:1-3; Jn 1:29; Mt 28:19; Rev 18:2,10)? How is Pentecost at Jerusalem the initial reversal of the judgment at Babel (Acts 2:4-6,11,41-47)? How is the new Jerusalem the final fulfillment (Isa 2:2-4; Rev 21:1-4,10,23-24,26)?
Preaching Christ from Genesis, Sidney Greidanus, 2001, 120-138.
The Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones, 2007

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