Genesis 38 is nothing less than scandalous. Yet although a passage of Scripture that talks openly about embarrassing sin might at first affront our cultured sensibilities, the reality is this is exactly the kind of Bible we would wish for! A Bible that is about real sinners, who make really big mistakes, and mess up in horribly embarrassing ways, just like us – who God nonetheless saves, and even uses, in his great plan of Redemption.
I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me (Psalm 101:3). There is, according to God’s Word, a kind of healthy hatred — a hatred for sin and its ravaging effects. As I was contemplating this reality recently, I thought of at least four ways in which a healthy hatred for sin should evidence itself in the sanctified life:
I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul, writing to the church at Corinth to correct their problems, confesses that he himself has to be careful to avoid sin. In fact Paul intimates he goes to great lengths — disciplining his body, keeping himself under control — to avoid the pitfalls of willful sin. But why? Did Paul not believe in the perseverance of the saints, or in the eternal security of believers?
Imputation is the act of one person adding something to another person’s account (Genesis 15:6). As believers in Jesus Christ, we have this clear assurance in Scripture: at the cross, our sins were imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness was imputed to us. The imputation of sin, as we see in Romans 5:12-15, is the way that God made for us to be saved. Our sin was placed upon Jesus Christ, and his righteousness was given to us, in order that we be saved.
He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground … Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Genesis 7:23). The worldwide Flood is sobering to consider. In Noah’s day, at a real point in time in actual history, every person on earth was drowned except the eight who were in the Ark. This is the greatest catastrophe in history, and no other event — tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, or volcanic eruption — even comes close. This was not a “natural” or normal kind of catastrophe.
The doctrine of the “perspicuity of Scripture” is a well-known and important teaching within the Christian faith. This doctrine refers to the fact that the Bible is clear, that it communicates perfectly. All scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible can be understood by anyone, barring mental handicaps (2 Timothy 3:15). This doesn’t mean it is easy to correctly understand; rather, the Bible requires careful, thoughtful study (2 Peter 3:16). Equally vital as the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity, however, is the balancing consideration of the “perspicacity” of the reader.
The question of evil and suffering is never a theoretical one. We all experience real and deep pain and wickednes. However, for the Christian believer (who recognizes there is a God), there are only three logical possibilities for the evil things that happen in this world:
Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). I was thinking recently about cases where a person who has been a professed believer, maybe even a well-known Christian leader, falls into public sin or even apostasy, and walks away from the Christian faith. Sadly, there have been many such cases in the news lately. We often think, and maybe even say, afterward that in hindsight there were some tendencies we could see in that person’s life that led to their eventual demise:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s true. You have seen someone trying to clean up their own mess before, and that this just ends up making things worse as long as they continue doing more of whatever caused the mess in the first place.
Dr. Paul Brand dedicated much of his life to investigating the disease of leprosy in India. Anyone could see that lepers lost parts of their extremities—like fingers, or a foot—but no one knew exactly how leprosy caused this decay in the body. Dr. Brand discovered that leprosy does not actually directly cause this damage. Leprosy prevents the affected part of the body from feeling pain, and so a broken ankle, or injured hand, goes untreated. It is in this indirect way that leprosy causes many other difficulties. Similarly, sin deadens us to the danger we are in.
“All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12). It seems as Paul writes his first letter to the church at Corinth, that the Corinthians were taking Paul’s own words — his principle of freedom in Christ specifically — and twisting it to their own sinful purposes. The problem was that some were quoting Paul regarding the freedom we have in Christ, but ignoring the balancing truth of what grace sets us free to do:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin… (2 Corinthians 5:21). On one hand, of course, Jesus’ excruciating death on the cross was wholly undeserved. The only perfect man to ever live should not have been tortured and then executed as a criminal.
She took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings (Genesis 3:6-7). When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent, and ate of the fruit which God had forbidden them from eating, the change was instantaneous, unmistakable, and disastrous. Suddenly, shockingly, devastatingly they felt their nakedness.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). The great sin of the city of Babel is not tower-building, or unified labor toward a societal goal. The sin of Babel is the sin of seeking independence from God.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We have no idea how deeply damaging the unconfessed sin in our life is. But we also cannot imagine how powerful and wise God’s forgiveness and cleansing will be.