Tag Archives: Genesis

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Genesis 3:22-24 – “Mercy in Judgment”)

“Mercy in Judgment”

Genesis 3:22-24, “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

This morning, man constantly stays in a state of desire.  We want something all the time.  As we mature, we begin to realize the folly of many of these desires, but throughout our lives, we can look back at a time when we got something that we wanted only to discover that it brought ruin rather than pleasure.  Due to our fallen condition, we seem to repeat this cycle far too often.  Rather than learn to temper our desires, we repeatedly fall victim to them.  During these times, we find that others can see the situation better than we can sometimes.  Parents know that a child’s desire is not good for them or in their best interest.  Friends may tell us that our path is one of destruction.  Whatever the case may be, the party involved in the desire many times is the least able to determine what is really good for them or not.

The verses above detail the tail end of events in the Garden of Eden.  Man has fallen by breaking God’s singular commandment, and as a result, many evils on the world today can be traced to this event.  Women’s pains in child bearing, sweat in working, weeds in the ground, and ultimately death itself all began on this dreadful day.  When God handed down these curses and judgments, He also gloriously referenced the coming cure to His people’s problems in the person of His Son (Verse 15).  Finally, God speaks within the Godhead and bars the tree of life from man.  This final judgment was specifically stated to keep man from eating the tree of life and living forever.

Many years ago, I was at a meeting, and an older and wiser elder than me was called to fill the stand.  In his discourse, he said something to the effect, “What a mercy this was from God!  Can you imagine what life on this earth would be like if you lived perpetually after sin was here?”  The statement was so different than anything I had heard about this event before that I was at first a little credulous about it.  However, upon much reflection, I have come to the conclusion that his thinking was indeed correct.  Imagine for a moment all the problems that we have in our own little lives now?  What if those problems never had an end?

Having watched loved ones lie on beds bearing the afflictions of cancer and other diseases, I cannot imagine the heartbreak that would come with watching loved ones suffer with no end in sight.  What if the ravages of cancer lasted for 6,000 years or longer?  Some people live with fear of what blood thirsty evildoers can or will do to them.  People living in large cities must cope with gang violence, drug peddling, and a myriad of other social evils.  What if these bloodthirsty devils could perpetuate their depravity forever?  These people’s fears would never cease if we all lived forever in these conditions.

All of the problems outlined above would not be in existence without the presence of sin in the world.  Because sin is in the world, these problems will continue as long as the earth stands.  When God barred the way to the tree of life, these problems – though not yet manifested to the degree they are now – were potentially present in the life of man.  These problems shortly appeared on the scene when Cain murdered Abel, and they have been ceaseless since then.  Would any of us deign to live forever like that?

We might say that the world was such a bad place that we would simply stop eating the tree of life, but man’s desires to live and exist would trump those.  Much like the child who keeps foolishly wanting the thing that is not good for them, we would keep desiring to live and live and live, even though it was not good for us.  Therefore, God mercifully kept His people from such a condition, while knowing that He had already made provision for a better and endless life that is free from bondage.

God opened the way to the true Tree of Life by having that flaming sword smite His Fellow (Zechariah 13:7), and thereby opening the door to the sheepfold so that the sheep would be admitted into the portals of eternal life and bliss.  This endless dwelling differs from perpetual life here, as the one there will not be tainted with the problems, afflictions, and sorrows that sin produces here.  That life is such that Paul would describe it as “far better” in Philippians 1.  Though God’s mercy is great to us here, the greatest mercy is being with Him in perfection where nothing ever defiles.  Why would we want to prolong this, when the better way has been ushered in by the Son Himself?

Though it was a great judgment to drive man from what he previously had access to, God’s mercy is still seen by not allowing us to make even more ruin of our lives with perpetual misery.  Death – though not desired by the flesh – is a great blessing for God’s children.  We get to leave the problems and trials of this life, which is why God’s children should have no fear of death. (Revelation 14:13) To those that Christ has granted entrance into heaven through His precious blood, death is not the end but the opening into a far better and blessed existence.  God has had mercy on us here, continues to have mercy on us, and will have mercy yet in the future.  He had mercy in keeping our dust from a life of perpetual misery.  He has mercy on us now by keeping our dust from multitudes of evil and problems.  He will have mercy on us by raising our dust to a plane of existence that is free from all the encumbrances and problems of this world.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Genesis 22:3)

Morning ThoughtsGenesis 22:3, "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him."

This morning, laziness abounds and gets worse by the day.  When looking at many of the problems that plague and afflict countries, families, churches, and individuals, laziness is at least part of the root source of the problem.  Many economic woes in this great land stem from the invading influence of laziness in getting "something for nothing."  Spiritual decline can many times spring from laziness as all worthwhile spiritual activity takes earnest effort.  Marriages crumble oftentimes due to one or both spouse’s lack of desire to put forth the necessary labor to try to save their union.  However, in the subject matter of worship, many of us display one of the ugliest forms of laziness in failure to honour God in a way befitting of His dear children.

Our study verse lies within perhaps my favorite of all Old Testament passages.  The story of Abraham and Isaac on the mountain reverberates with rich displays of application to Christ's sacrifice and God's satisfaction.  In the temporal realm, the story is further enlightened by Paul in Hebrews 11 as one of the rare times when we get insight into the mind of a Biblical character.  Notice briefly the tense of the language in Hebrews 11:17-19.  The language is past tense, though we understand from a cursory reading of Genesis 22 that Abraham did not actually take Isaac's life.  However, Paul speaks of Abraham actually killing him, and this shows the magnificent faith that Abraham had.  In his mind, Isaac was already dead, but just as surely as he intended to kill him was just as surely as Abraham saw God raising him from the dead.  What remarkable faith!

One of the most stirring things about this passage that shows Abraham's noble character is the language of the verse above.  In the previous verse, God had commanded him to get up and head to the mountain that He would tell him of to offer Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord.  What would you do if posed with such a command from God?  How willing would you even be to do it?  When my son was born into this world, passages like this took on a much more personal reflection for me.  Now that I have a son, I can only ponder what my faith would look like in the light of such a plain command from the Almighty.

Many people today like to play the game of procrastination.  When I was in college, the behavior was always on brilliant display.  Why do something today when it is not due tomorrow?  When is that test?  Then why study for it now?  As a side note, I have noticed a disturbing trend among some ministers to utilize this mindset when thinking about and preparing to preach to God's sheep.  This mentality should be foreign and alien to any child of God, and certainly it should not rear its head in the lives of those that should be ensamples to the flock.  Procrastination is a form of laziness, and what would this verse have looked like if Abraham procrastinated?  Instead of him rising early in the morning to accomplish what God commanded, he would have slept in, dawdled around, and thought, "If I wait long enough, maybe God will change His mind."

Instead, Abraham was instant and ready to fulfill God's command.  Doubtless, this command is harder and more penetrating than any command we have from God today.  Nothing that God has commanded me even comes close to the heart-stopping injunction that was handed down here.  Still, Abraham was instant.  What type of command was this?  By offering a burnt offering, God commanded Abraham to "worship" in this manner.  Now, we see the mercy of God on rich display when He spared the knife from plunging into Isaac's breast, though He did not spare the sword of Divine Justice from piercing the very soul of His only Begotten Son Jesus Christ.  But, God commanded worship on this occasion.

Today, God has commanded us to worship Him.  The prescription is spirit and truth. (John 4:24) Nothing about God's command has changed in 2000 years.  Since the first advent of Jesus Christ, the church has been set up, given the prescription of worship, and commanded to perpetually follow that prescription until His second advent to carry us home to heaven.  Our prescription is not severe like Abraham's seemed to be.  John tells us that God's commands are not grievous (I John 5:3), and nothing about the church's worship should ever be considered imposing upon us.

Consider how far we have come!  I have read stories of our forefathers in the faith worshipping God in caves during dark days of persecution.  Oftentimes these bands of believers would be put to death if their worship was discovered, and some sang praises to God as the flames of their tormentors took their natural lives.  As little as 100-200 years ago, it was not uncommon for people to walk miles to be at worship.  Ministers would sometimes ford frozen streams to make their preaching appointments.  Meetinghouses were uncomfortable by today's standards with natural heat in the summer and natural cooling in the winter.  And yet, to all accounts of centuries and decades ago, spiritual welfare and health among the churches and members was higher and stronger than it is – by and large – today.

Today we have greater ease to get to the meetinghouse, and the meetinghouse is more comfortable than at any other time.  Religious liberty has existed as long as I have been alive in this great land, and I have never known being in mortal jeopardy for living my faith.  Yet, laziness pervades every avenue of our lives: worship included.  People seem to find reason after reason not to attend.  Others cannot seem to find a reason to be there on time.  Others cannot find the energy to engage during the service.  None of these things can be attributed to harsh circumstances or for harsh worship.  Rather, laziness invades and takes hold.

Many years ago, I was preaching a meeting at a church, and due to the circumstances, their pastor was away for both of my appointments there that weekend.  After supper before the first appointment, one of the deacons came up to me and said, "Brother Conley, we don't do anything here.  You'll have to do all the singing, praying, and preaching."  The statement floored me.  I had never run across such honest laziness!  The words "we don't do anything here" were those that I never expected to hear spoken though I had seen some live those very words.

Abraham cared enough about his service of worship to be instant and hearty in the fulfilling of it.  He shows this by his early attention to it.  Just recently, I was asked, "Why do people look at being late to church as so terrible?"  Again, I was floored.  My reply was a simple question, "Why is it considered so terrible to be tardy to work or an appointment?"  The reason is the same in both cases: lack of punctuality displays a poor attitude towards the one we appear for.  In the case of employment, we display a poor attitude of reflection upon the one paying us for a day's work.  In the case of worship, we display a poor attitude of reflection upon the One that has done so much for us and more than we could ever repay.

While Abraham went further than I have ever been called to go in his service and devotion to God, Christ obviously went further than anyone.  Abraham's example is a noble one that I should emulate more than I do, but worship times are afforded for us to adore Christ for that great work that He has done for us.  My worship of Him should have laziness weeded and rooted out completely. (Colossians 3:23) In these days that we have before us for whatever time we have left, may our worship of God be early.  May it be constant and perpetual (rather than haphazardly).  Finally, may it be energized and fervent.  Since our duties are light compared to Abraham's and far lighter compared to Christ, we really have little – if anything – to complain about.  As I often remind myself from a sermon I heard as a little boy, "If you knew this service was to be your last, how differently would you act?  Wouldn't you want your last one to be your best one?"  Indeed.  Indeed I would.  May we treat each opportunity as possibly our last (one day it will be) and work for that to be the best time we ever had worshipping our Great God and Master.

In Hope,

Bro Philip