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Noah: A New Hope

Sermon passage: (Genesis 5:1-32) Spoken on: September 23, 2012
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Noah

Tags: Genesis, 创世记

Listen to sermon recording with the play button or download with the download link. 您可点播或下载讲道录音。
About Rev. Wong Siow Hwee: Rev. Wong is the moderator of Jubilee Church, serving there since 2002. 王晓晖牧师是禧年堂的主理牧师。自2002年,在那牧会将近20年。
Bible passage (ESV) of the sermon can be found at the bottom of the page.

Sermon on Genesis 5

Shalom, brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ve just completed our sermon series on James [i] and the Hallel Psalms [ii]. We touched on some practical topics and deepened our understanding of worship. If you have any feedback, or suggestions for sermon topics, I welcome you to approach any of the pastors. In the next liturgical year, beginning at Advent in end November, we will start a new sermon series on Luke-Acts. That will stretch all the way to probably June next year. Before we embark on that long journey however, we have a short two-month window at the bilingual service. I want to cover a short story in Genesis: the story of Noah. Everybody should be familiar with this story, even the non-Christians. You all know about the flood, the ark and the two by two animals. Yet despite its familiarity, I doubt many of you know it beyond the Sunday School children-friendly version. Unfortunately, that also means that you are neglecting a critical link in salvation history. In our gospel class we cover the story of Creation to Adam and Eve in great detail. On the pulpit, we often begin the story of Israel from the call of Abraham in Genesis 12. But what is the bridge from Adam and Eve to Abraham? Thus, I’m glad we have this window of opportunity to study a missing link of our Old Testament Christian education. For Abraham did not appear out of the blue in Genesis 12. His roots came from his ancestor Shem in Genesis 11. Similarly, Shem’s roots came from his ancestor Adam in Genesis 5. Knowing the story from Adam to Noah, and from Shem to Abram, would give us a more complete picture of the entire turn of events.

So let’s start from the very beginning. We have two versions of the Creation story. Genesis 1 is the poetic version which describes God’s creation in seven days. It is beautifully structured to present a purposeful and divine act of creation, of the transformation of a world that was formless and empty, into one that is orderly and plentiful. On the sixth day, this is what we read:

Genesis 1: 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number.” From this poetic presentation, we see that Mankind was given a special role in Creation. Man was given the image of God, and with this image, we might rule over all life, just as how God created life out of chaos, and made it good. This image would be multiplied and preserved through the blessing of God to be “fruitful and increase in number”.

In Genesis 2, we have yet another creation story, this time a narrative version. Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.

This time, instead of the entire universe, you have one guy in one garden, Adam of Eden. His main jobs were to take care of the garden (2:15) and to name all the animals. You can tell that he was running out of ideas for names in the end, because the wombat is not a bat, and the guinea pig is not a pig. The woman was made as a helper, but I find no biblical evidence as to what specific help she provided. But being a married man of ten years, I don’t need the Bible to tell me that she would be “suitable” in a managerial role, telling the man what he is supposed to do, and taking credit for the work done.

Now, if this narrative version seems unreal, or sounds like a parable to you, I would agree. The literary presentation is mythological, but it is not a myth. When we say something is a myth, it is factually untrue. But when we say something is mythological, it can be truthful, but the characters are larger than life, the message is contained in symbolisms and metaphors, and the narration is stylized for plot purposes. Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden becomes representative of a broken relationship between God, Mankind and Creation.

But if you take a more literal view of the Bible, and insist on reading Genesis 2 onwards as a historical account, I have a small suggestion. It is often assumed that Adam and Eve are the first man and woman created [iii] and all mankind are their direct descendants. But this assumption runs into all kinds of logical difficulties, such as where did Cain get his wife, why was he worried about other men when he became a wanderer [iv], and how much incest is going on, etc. So my suggestion is this: if we want to be truly literal, it is more logical to see that God had already created mankind in Genesis 1. Adam and Eve were then uniquely created for Eden afterwards. I have a theory: all other mankind might be roaming the earth, and only Adam was the first man made to walk with God in the Garden prepared for him.

Genesis 3: 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Why was God calling for Adam? It was time for their daily evening walk. As it turns out, walking with God would continue to be a running theme in Genesis. As we have read, Adam failed in this experiment. But the efforts of God were not to be deterred. In Genesis 6: 9 Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. In Genesis 17: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Eventually, this Godly walk with Noah and Abraham would continue on to all of Israel. God’s people walk with God. Leviticus 26: 9 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves with all these talk of Noah, Abraham and Israel walking with God. Before their walk could occur in history, there was a major stumble. Genesis 3: 17 “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” [v] Because of Adam’s disobedience, God cursed the ground and blocked him from the tree of life. So instead of a garden of fruits and eternal life, Adam would experience toil and death.

My intention for running through the creation stories is to demonstrate how, our passage today, Genesis 5, continued the themes of both creation stories. In Genesis 1, we were told that mankind was given the image of God. In Genesis 5, this image was passed from Adam to Seth and beyond. In Genesis 1, God pronounced the blessing to be fruitful and multiply. In Genesis 5, this blessing became reality as every generation from Adam and Seth had “other sons and daughters”. In the narrative creation story, I spoke of the walk with God and the curse of the ground and death. Similarly in Genesis 5, we were told twice how “ Enoch walked faithfully with God”. We were reminded of the curse, when Lamech desired relief from his hardship. In verse, “29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.”” As for death, except for Enoch who was taken by God, the conclusion for everyone else was always the same: “then he died”. For dust you are and to dust you will return. Just as how the blessing of Genesis 1 had proven true, the curse of Genesis 3 had proven the same.

At this juncture, you may be wondering about the long lives of these people who lived for centuries. Commentators have suggested many theories but ultimately, these are speculations. The numbers may have special meanings, but their significances are lost for now. My personal preference is the suggestion that these huge numbers are meant to symbolize a different era before the flood. Those were ancient times where perhaps the passing of time felt different. But one thing is sure, none of them lived past a thousand years. With that, the writer reminds us of the inevitability of death.

Why did the editor of Genesis 5 continue these main themes of the creation stories? To multiply, to toil and eventually to die of old age, these may seem like mundane events. As Christians, we take for granted the privilege of walking with Christ and bearing his image. We fail to cherish the precious and gracious work of the Holy Spirit, to have a God so personal to us. Genesis 5 revisited all these themes to convey that God's creation continued in the line of Seth to Noah. These things are neither mundane nor to be taken for granted. They are signs of hope, and signs that God’s grace has continued after Adam and Eve. To fully appreciate the message of Genesis 5, let's now contrast it with the parallel genealogy in Genesis 4.

Genesis 4: 17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Note that in this genealogy, there was no mention of the blessing of multiplication with “other sons and daughters”. There was no passing of the image of God from Adam. Instead, we are reminded of the mark on Cain (Genesis 4:15), that anyone who killed Cain would be avenged 7 times. No one from the line of Cain walked with God. Interestingly, there was also no toiling on the ground. Perhaps, the blood of Abel prevented this. 4:12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. Instead, there was city-building, nomadic lifestyle, music and weaponry. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. They represent progress in civilisation. But they seem like a questionable diversion from the gardening lifestyle in Genesis 2. Lastly, there was no mention of death. I wondered about it, but I think I know why. There was so much violence in this genealogy that none of them died of old age. Instead of a Lamech from Seth that lived to 777 years old, a number symbolizing completeness, the Lamech from Cain would murder 77 times.

Looking at the contrast between these two genealogies, to the point of both using many similar names, I think the editor of Genesis intentionally expressed the faithfulness of the line from Seth to Noah. This is summarized in the closing of Genesis 4.

Genesis 4: 25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.

The purpose of today's sermon is to give an introduction to the story of Noah. What should be our mind-set as we prepare ourselves to enter the story? Is it a dark and stormy night? Is it a bright and sunny day? At the end of the episode of Adam and Eve, we might have concluded a gloomy forecast. A life of toil and death snares does not appear promising for the future of mankind. What is the meaning of life if we were only to work till the day we die? Maybe you see your life in the same way. At the end of Chapter four, some of mankind chose the way of Cain. They took the easy way out; giving in to sin. When we want to control our future at the expense of others, it would lead to a downward spiral towards destruction.

But I would argue that Genesis 5 presents the same reality after Adam and Eve, but concludes in a different way. Genesis 5 sees hope in life, especially life expressed by the line from Seth. Yes, life is often hardship. Yes, life ends in death. But like Seth, your life can be meaningful if you choose to walk with the Lord. For every next generation is a blessing from God. When we see young children we know this. They inherit our image and they too will one day pass it on to their children. Life goes on. And there is something better. We have Enoch as a hint that there is more to life as we know it. That if we continue to walk faithfully, perhaps one day we too might just experience eternal life.

[i] http://www.jubilee.org.sg/sermons/?series=28
[ii] http://www.jubilee.org.sg/sermons/?series=31
[iii] The only time Adam is mentioned as the first man is in 1 Corinthians 15:45-47. However, I would argue that the purpose of Paul is not to state that Adam is the first made man (he added the words “first” and “Adam” into the Genesis quotation). His purpose of “first” is to contrast with Jesus who came “second”. Just as Jesus isn’t literally the “second” man or the “last” man, the “first” is also not a literal meaning.
[iv] Genesis 4:14
[v] The effects of Adam’s Sin was interpreted by Paul and contrasted with Jesus’ grace in Romans 5:12-21. Augustine further developed Paul’s thoughts into the Doctrine of Original Sin. I however concur with Goldingay, contra Augustine, that the propensity to sin (sinful humanity) is best understood as environmental and sociological rather than genetic. See Goldingay, OT Theology: Israel’s Gospel, p 178, also Genesis 4:7

Genesis 5 (Listen)

5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

(ESV)