The Problem of Evil: Part Two.

Genesis chapter 5 begins with the genealogy of Adam – which, interestingly, does not list the birth of Adam and Eve’s firstborn sons, Cain, and Abel. The preceding chapter describes how the sin of pride destroyed the siblings’ relationship, leading to the murder of Abel by his brother, and Cain’s banishment by God into the wilderness:
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:3-12).
With Abel dead, and Cain banished, the lineage of Adam begins again with his son, Seth: “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’ To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (4:25-26). Luke 3:23-38 traces the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to Seth, then to Adam, and to God. It’s interesting to note that in Hebrew, the name Seth means “appointed one,” and here it seems that Seth was appointed by God to be next in line to carry Adam’s lineage forward to Christ, after his brother Abel was murdered.
And there is something else that is interesting in this genealogy. Genesis 5:1-5 states that 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.

Moses, the author of Genesis, takes pains to point out that although Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, Adam’s children were fathered in Adam’s own likeness, after Adam’s image. This indicates to us that Adam’s state of original sin was transferred to humankind, through his offspring. We can understand this to be true because the story of Cain and Abel provides proof that human beings, from the very beginning, have been subject to the ravages of sin and death. The scriptures do not tell us whether Seth actively sinned or not, but they do indicate that Adam’s future offspring bore the likeness of the image of God, the Imago Dei, and the image of sinful, mortal Adam. All, that is, except One, Jesus Christ, who is without sin.
The fact that we harbor original sin within our very genes tells us that no matter who we are, we need a Savior, so that we may be born again out of the kingdom of sin and death and into the kingdom of God and eternal life. And the birth of Seth is evidence that from the very beginning, God had a plan for our redemption and even fratricide could not intervene to stop it.
Nevertheless, things continued to get very dark, as sin had its way with humanity. Genesis 6 begins the story of Noah:
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years”…
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (vv. 1-8)
The chapter goes on to say that Noah was blameless in his generation, but the whole rest of the world was steeped in sin: “And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (v. 12). Evil had taken hold so completely that only one family was allowed to enter the ark and carry the lineage of humankind into the future.
Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.
Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth.  And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. (Genesis 7:1-7)

Every living creature, man, animal, and bird, “that had breath in its nostrils” perished in the flood, except for Noah and all that were with him on the ark (vv. 17-24).
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (9:8-14)
Many years ago, my family and I lived for a time on the US Gulf Coast. Not long after we arrived, a massive hurricane swarmed over the ocean and ravaged our town. I will never forget the sound of huge trees all around us being snapped in half, the howling of the winds, and the relentless beat of torrents of rain on our roof. Thankfully, our home suffered little damage and our loved ones were all fine, but not all were so fortunate. The lives of many were turned topsy-turvy for many months and our nerves were rattled for a long time afterward. Having lived through that, and many other natural disasters, I can only imagine how terrible it must have been for Noah and his family to realize that they had survived the outpouring of God’s wrath, and they were the only human beings left alive on the planet. Surely, they must have understood why God had made the decision to begin again, and how he would have expected this new “first family” to behave after the flood.
But sadly, even after witnessing God’s power, this tiny band of men had not learned God’s lesson. Sin was too firmly entrenched in human nature, and shortly after beginning to rebuild, mankind sinned again:
The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth…These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
… After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died. (9:18-28)
Please stay tuned for Part Three.


All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Pentecost: Fresh Wind/Fresh Fire.

Have you noticed that over the past few years it has become more and more difficult to maintain a good attitude? Crisis fatigue has set in, as we are forced to deal with a seemingly never-ending barrage of catastrophes. Pandemics, wars, mass shootings, earthquakes, inflation, food shortages, and political and social unrest have become so commonplace that we wonder how things could possibly get any worse. That is until the next news cycle, when somehow, they actually do. It’s getting harder to keep the faith in this broken world.
Daniel foresaw this set of circumstances and prophesied that there would come a time when the enemy would place tremendous pressure on God’s people, and indeed on the whole world. He wrote that the time would come when the enemy would use every cunning device at his disposal to “wear out the saints” of God (Daniel 7:23-27). He saw that the times to come would be so difficult that even the prophet said, “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart” (v. 28).
Jesus, himself, foretold that great conflict would arise among nations, and that in the latter days the world would suffer widespread pestilences, famines, and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:10-11).  He stated that although these events would point to the end, they are but birth pangs, which will provide the Church with the opportunity to bear witness to the gospel of Christ (Matthew 24; Luke 21). But Jesus also warned his disciples to guard against being weighed down by the cares of this world, urging us to stay awake at all times, praying and anticipating his return (Luke 21:34-36).
But what do these things mean for us today? First, biblical prophecies help us understand that nothing takes God by surprise. And Daniel and the other prophets were given the insights and information necessary to inform God’s people what to expect, over time. However, knowing what to expect and having the wherewithal to withstand it are not necessarily the same thing. The upheavals that we are currently living through are literally of biblical proportions, and we are becoming exhausted. How can we cope?

On his way to his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus explained to his disciples that they should anticipate the arrival of another Comforter, the Holy Spirit:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
He went on to say, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (vv. 25-27).
The peace that Jesus promised his disciples is not worldly peace. It is not dependent on our circumstances or our feelings, and whether they are good or bad. The peace that Jesus promised he would give to all those who believe in him comes from and is realized in the person of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit of God dwelling within us, we cannot have real peace.
Jesus continued in John 15:10-11, saying “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In the same way that the peace of God is found in the indwelling presence of the Spirit, when God’s Spirit lives within us, his joy becomes our own. No joy can be “full” unless it comes from the Spirit of God.
And likewise, we cannot be fruitful witnesses for Christ without the Holy Spirit Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (15:26). He demonstrated this when, at the time of his ascension he instructed his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem before taking up the mantle of evangelism, until they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “’It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:7-10; Acts 2).
Beloved Friends, it is not possible for us to have supernatural peace, or the fullness of God’s joy, or to be effective witnesses for him in this world without the indwelling presence and the constant assistance of the Holy Spirit. The difficulty is that we can be saved, but not receive help and comfort from the Spirit because we get so caught up in the cares of this world that we completely forget that he lives within us.

Paul illustrated this in Ephesians 1:11-14, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” There is an inheritance that is yet to come in the new heaven and the new earth (see Revelation 21-22); however, Paul specifically says here that we have already obtained an inheritance. This inheritance, that we were predestined to receive at salvation, is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit: “In him, we have obtained an inheritance.” And the sealing of the Spirit is therefore also the guarantee of our future inheritance. Until then, and while we are here on the earth, God the Father sent his Holy Spirit to abide with us, to guide us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to bring us his peace, and fill us with his joy. Remember, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Nothing takes him by surprise. Our heavenly Father knew that we would face trials and tribulations in this world. And he made a way for us to withstand all the wiles of the enemy, by sealing us with his Spirit of Truth.
Before the crucifixion, Jesus promised, “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:5-15)
Jesus stated to his disciples that “all that the Father has is mine,” and that he would take what is his and declare it to us. When we read in context, we realize that this happens through the presence of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, at two of the most pivotal events in his ministry, before his crucifixion and then before his ascension, Jesus made a point of explaining the role of the Holy Spirit to his disciples.

The presence of God the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Body of Christ is not an afterthought.
John 17:1-19 records Jesus’ words just before his arrest, in what is known as Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, which he prayed over his disciples. Following, in verses 20-25, Jesus prays for all those who would come to believe in his name, saying, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…”
The glory that Jesus gives us that causes us to be one with him and with the Father is the Holy Spirit. That is, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are One, and when the Spirit abides in us, we, too, become one with God.
Therefore, Beloved Friends, if you are saved, but are still having a difficult time dealing with what is happening in the world today, remember, God prophesied about these events and knowing they would occur, he sent his Spirit to make a way for us to endure even the most trying circumstances. Therefore, take heart, and do not be afraid. As Jesus promised his disciples, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Holy Spirit lives within you. Ask, and he will guide you in all things. Seek, and you will find his peace in all circumstances. Knock, and he will open the door of wisdom to you in every situation. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).



All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.