If you sneeze, I will politely respond "Bless you." If you sneeze again.. you are on your own as I adhere to a strict one blessing per sneezer rule. This is not negotiable.
But sneeze blessings are not the topic of the day instead a Father’s Blessings, and ultimately God’s blessings. These blessings I want, and like I say often in The Back Pew .. ‘BlESSED beyond my DREAMS’. I want Prayer of Jabez supersized blessings.
It seems just like a chapter ago Isaac was just a boy, but now in Genesis 25 Isaac is all grown up and with his wife Rebecca has twin boys. The first to enter the world was Esau, and right on his heel literally (Ge. 25:25) was Jacob.
These boys were like so many brothers as they were very different from each other. Esau grew up to be a scruffy/hairy outdoors type who loved to hunt. Jacob on the other hand was not scruffy, and liked to hang out in the kitchen with maybe a reputation as a mamma's boy.
The Father's Blessing
Next we are introduced to the power of the Father’s Blessing, and especially the blessings set aside for the first born in this case.. by beating brother Jacob in the 'birth canal dash' was scruffy/hairy Esau.
I am not sure how or why they worked the way they did in the Old Testament, but it seems like the 'Father’s blessing' had the power to make or break the future of the ‘blessee’. It was like winning the family inheritance lottery.. and there were no TAKE BACKS.
The Blessing Plot Thickens
So one day Esau comes in from hunting famished and is met by his brother Jacob. Esau is so desperate for food, that Jacob talks Esau out of his birthright since Esau replies, "what good is my birth right if I die today from starvation."
note: It appears Esau was a great hunter, but a bit of a drama queen.
I don’t know exactly follow how the whole birthright and blessing stuff worked in those days, but I am thinking this birthright transfer should have required a signed agreement witnessed and stamped by a notary public.
ie The first party (Esau) agrees to relinquish his future blessing reserved for the first born to the second party (Jacob) in exchange for one bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup.
Esau sign here
Jacob sign here
Notary sign here
Date enter today's date
I am not sure if today this birthright exchange for soup arrangement would hold up even in front of Judge Judy, but in Genesis 25 it set the stage for the Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO.
Isaac is very old!
As the story continues, their father Isaac is getting very old, he is nearly blind and his health is failing. Isaac recognizing his days on this earth are numbered and so wants to give his blessing to his first born son Esau before he hears Heaven's Angels singing 'Happy Trails to you'. and 'When the Roll is called up Yonder'.
So Isaac asks Esau to hunt, and then fix him some wild game for him and at that time he will give Esau his blessing.
Well, Rebecca overhears this and wants this blessing to got to her favorite son (and kitchen apprentice) Jacob. So while Esau is out hunting, she comes up with a planso simple, so ingenious, but with more than a hint of .. WHAT?
Mom schemes to put animal skins on Jake’s arms to appear hairy like his brother Esau.
As strange as this sounds.. this plan works and Isaac though he was suspicious thought it was Esau, and in the end gives Jacob THE BLESSING OF THE FIRST BORN. The Ol' Birthright SWITCHEROO is complete!
Of course being a cartoonist, and a dog owner I wonder.. WHAT IF the FAMILY DOG wanders on to the scene before the walking talking/lying carpet remnant Jacob and receives the blessing of the first born?
The Dog is hairy, Esau is hairy, and the gggruff voice it could be Esau with a cold. Hmmm.. WHAT IF?
But I digress as no dog wanders in, and Jacob gets the blessing and skips town just before Esau returns from hunting. Esau fixes a fine dinner of wild game along with a bottle of Desert Merlot. He walks into to see dad ready to receive the blessing of the first born WHEN…
It's like Déjà vu all over again for Dad. -The Prophet Yogi Berra
Isaac exclaims.. “Hey, weren’t you just here?... er..aaaa.. didn’t you already come for your blessing?.. I mean.. I mean.. HEY WAIT A MINUTE!”
HEY, WHAT ABOUT ME?
This is the moment when the light bulb goes on enough for Isaac’s dim eyes to realize.. HE GAVE THE BLESSING TO THE WRONG SON!
I hate when that happens!
Esau is of course distraught and cries out .. “Bless me too!!.. what about me!!??” In response Isaac hold out his right arm limply and says..
“It’s empty.” no blessing for you, but we have some lovely parting gifts.
Ok he did not say those exact words, but Isaac is very clear .. the blessing of the first born has been given.. given to Jacob. Like a winning lottery ticket, THERE WAS ONLY ONE!..
So this caper of the misplaced blessing is over.. without me understanding the blessings of Isaac, except the fact that there are no take backs. The fact is God did intend for Jacob to be blessed as he continues to bless the descendants of Abraham as promised, through Isaac, and now Jacob to continue the promise of a great nation.
Moral of the story for us today? Be faithful like Abraham so that God can bless and use you as part of his plan. Whether you are the first born, that dreaded middle child (kidding), the baby, or you are adopted.. God loves you, and has a plan to bless & prosper all who love and obey Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I Know The Plans I Have For You' Declares the Lord, 'Plans to Prosper You and Not to Harm You, Plans to Give You Hope and a Future.
Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
May God find us faithful and full of love for the one true God, and blessed by him in ways that are beyond our dreams.
Jeff (first born) Larson
Before I discuss the Old Testament equivalent to E-Harmony let me give a Genesis update where in Genesis 20 where Abraham AGAIN fibs a bit. He is not even original as he tells Abimelek King of Gerar that Sarah is his sister. So Abimilek took Sarah into his house .. until God spoke to Abimelek in a dream with the words "You are a dead man walking for taking a married woman from my prophet."
But God showed mercy on Abimilek as he had not come near her yet. The next day he gave Sarah back and Abe tried to explain himself in verse 12 (paraphrased).. "Well, technically she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife."
Sounds less like a passage from the Holy Bible and more like a Reality TV show 'The Real Housewives of the Region of the Negev between Kadesh and Shur'.
Q. Why do Kings and Pharaohs of this time desire 80+ year old women? Not judging, just asking for a friend'.
Next in Genesis 21 we learn Sarah becomes pregnant in her old age. This was before gender reveal parties so Abraham and Sarah had to wait the traditional 9 months before they exclaimed "It's a boy, and we shall call him Isaac."
In celebration then passed out blue cupcakes, and drank blue kool-aid... cuz of course boys are BLUE and girls are PINK.
Now onward and forward we go..
Now remember when maidservant Hagar in Genesis 16, was given to Abraham 'by Sarah' and they had a son. This fact now complicated life where tensions and jealousy rose between Hagar and her son Ishmael with Sarah and baby Isaac. So Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael packing.
I obviously do not understand this whole dynamic or know how to justify this.. except I do know that Hagar and Ishmael were not how God would bless Abraham. Instead Abraham would become the father of a nation through the birth of Isaac.
This story is harsh, but in these verses we learn God heard the cries of Hagar .. the angel of God called to Hagar from Heaven "Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying ..Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Ge 21:17
Next, in Genesis 22 there is a plot twist when God tests Abraham by instructing him to sacrifice his only son Isaac whom he loved dearly. Abraham was faithful in this test and of course God stops Abe from sacrificing Isaac by providing a lamb to be sacrificed.
Notes to ponder..
Note 1: I confess I may have 'figuratively' threatened to kill my boys when they were acting out as teenagers.
Note 2: Isaac being saved was very good news for the literal future of Israel.
Note 3: Not a good day to be a lamb stuck by dumb luck in a thicket.
Moving forward in reading Genesis 22:21 we are introduced to my favorite names in the Bible.
Uz and Buz (not LIghtyear) but instead the sons of Nahor.
Not much is said about these two fine young men leaving this cartoonist with time on his hands to imagine they were chick magnets and had a cousin named.. Fuzz.
Maybe, maybe not.
Gotta Find that boy a Woman..
At this point in the Genesis account, Abraham is well over 100 years old, and his wife Sarah passed away Genesis 23. So Abraham feels an urgency of finding his son Isaac a wife before his days are over too. How is Abraham going to be the father of a nation with more descendants than the stars in the skies if his son never even goes on a date?
"Isaac my son, you need to go outside and stop playing video games all day. Go find yourself a nice Jewish girl, settle down, then go forth and MULTIPLY!"
maybe, maybe not
If the story in Genesis 24 was today, Isaac may have found the future Mrs. Isaac by checking the church bulletin board, attended a church potluck where the dishes are HOT just like the ladies, or.. used an online dating. Of course at the time of Genesis the choices of internet providers was limited, and their speeds were slow and not reliable.
maybe, maybe not.
So... since as described above, dating life in Genesis 24 was a tad primitive Abe decides to help his son out. Oh great, that is just the news any young man wants to hear.. Dad is finding me a woman of my very own.
To make this process even stranger-er, Abraham insisted his chief servant 'promise' to find this woman.
How is this promise secured you may ask?
No instead Abraham says.. “Hey fella, put your hand under my leg and swear.”
<insert dramatic pause here> I beg your pardon? Come again? Is this an advanced version of the old 'pull my finger' joke?
maybe, maybe not
But Abraham’s servant does swear to Abraham to follow his instructions and finds the lovely Rebecca. It was truly love at first sight? er aaa.. meet?.. er aaaa… first selection.
She agrees to return with Abe's servant and leave her family to marry Isaac. And they all lived happily ever after. Well at least through Genesis 24.
After the deal is done.. Abraham gets busy himself. He marries again and his new bride has more 6 kids. Finally at a very youthful age of 175 Abe breathes his last though they say he never did look a day past 155.
The lesson I see again in these Genesis stories God is faithful even when we make bad decisions like Abraham. Life will never be about being the perfect Christian. Perfect Christians are like the Loch Ness monster.. folk lore at best.
I pray God finds us faithful, and I pray for His blessings and providence in our lives as we daily love and obey Him with all our heart.
Jeff (My wife is NOT my sister) Larson
Last we chatted (I blogged), Abraham was healing from.. a ‘MINOR procedure’. YOWTCHIE!
Next in chapter 19, Abraham is met by three men and welcomes these visitors into his tent to allow them to rest out of the heat of the day. Abraham then tells Sarah to bake some homemade bread while he fires up the grill to cook up some burgers and brats for his guests.
After dinner, the visitors informed Abraham that Sarah will have a son one year from now. Well Sarah was listening at the entrance and LAUGHED to herself since she was so old. The guests heard her laughing and reminded Abraham and Sarah that this is not too difficult for the God who created the world.
After this the three men left, and headed towards Sodom (aka Sin City).
Sodom and Gomorrah
Now I live in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Known for cold weather and for what we brag the people are Minnesota Nice. In contrast, Sodom and Gomorrah were the Twin Cities of Evil, and God had enough with their behavior, and tells Abraham He is going to destroy them.
But Abraham humbly pleas with God to spare these cities if there could even be found 10 good people. This is an interesting negotiation, and a great example of God patience in hearing our prayers, and that He truly does care. The prayers of a righteous man is heard by God with Abraham, and this is still true today.
Next the two angels arrive in Sodom and Lot pleads with them to come into his home and off the streets because it was not safe there. They wanted to spend the night in the City Square, but did agree to come to Lot’s home.
After dinner, the men of this wicked city came asking Lot to send out these men so that they could have sex with them. Lot being the good host.. good host??? says “no.. don’t do this evil thing, BUT.. you can have my two virgin daughters.” This is another one of those jaw dropping moments that transcends culture, and to compound the level of wickedness, the men yelled back.. “get out of our way Lot.. we want the men!”
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
So these angels, blind these evil men, and then told Lot to warn his family that the Lord is about to destroy these Old Testament sin cities. In the morning, Lot, his wife, and two daughters flee the city while his future son-in-laws thought Lot was joking and stayed behind.
So the two men/angels took Lot and his family and led them from the city, and once they were safe, and they were all instructed.. “don’t look back.”
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur from the sky and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah completely while an emergency weather alert was issued a 'hell fire' heat warning for the entire region.
Finally as Lot and his family ran for their lives, Lot’s wife looked back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Her last words hung in the air.. "I think I left the oven on".
After this display of God’s wrath and the there was an investigation by the local CSI TEAM finding an empty Improve Our City suggestion box at the city limits. Many years later an archaeological dig found a road sign verifying the existence/location of the ancient city of Gomorrah. The sign stated simply.. 'What happens in Gomorrah, stays in Gomorrah'.
Of course Lot’s life was a mess, and there are more stories following this judgment regarding Lot and his daughters that are further examples of a depraved society.
Moral of the story? God's Grace is amazing and free, but not.. cheap. You cannot put a price on God's Grace.. but know we must turn from our sins and never look back. GOD WILL NEVER BE MOCKED.
Jeff (Less Salt) Larson
I shared recently the Bible story where a mysterious voice saying "If you build it, they will come." happened way before the movie 'Field of Dreams'. This was when God spoke to Noah instructing him to build it (an Ark) and they (the Animals) will come two by two.
Next big event IMO in the book of Genesis paralleling pop culture was when the phrase 'Home of the Whopper'. Let me share how this pop culture phrase was coined way before a single Burger King fast food joint existed, and certainly before America's presidential election process. Let me explain.. but first..
ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
In Genesis 12 Abram enters the Old Testament story. Abram is maybe a spry 85 years young, his bride Sarai is maybe 70. The Lord tells Abram .. “Road Trip.!!.. pack up the Winnebago”.
So Abraham loads a destination of Canaan into his GPS and says goodbye to Sweet Home Haran with Lynard Skynard playing in the background.
HOME OF THE WHOPPER!
The next thing you know Abram was in Egypt with his wife Sarai while there was a famine in the land. While in Egypt, Pharaoh spies Abram's wife Sarai who rumor has it was a 'fetching' 70 year old hottie. So Abe tells a little fib that Sarai is his sister as he is afraid they will kill him to take Sarai as their wife. Ok, that is not a white lie this is a WHOPPER of a lie.
So Pharaoh takes Sarai into his palace, and treats Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels out of the exchange.
side note: I am not sure my wife in Sarai's place would have been such a good sport.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
side note 2: While Abraham would become known as a great man of faith, Honest Abe was our 16th president and never confused with this Abram guy pawning his wife off in Egypt.
After Egypt, Abe travels to southern Canaan as a very wealthy man with cattle, silver, and gold. But tension arose between Abram and his nephew Lot because there were simply too many animals for the land to support. So Abe says to Lot, “Let’s not bicker over land. If you choose the land to the left, I will go to the right, and if you choose the land to the right, I will go to the left.” And Lot chooses the land in the direction of Sodom which could have been named LOT VEGAS!
In chapter 14, there were battles, but I gather that military tactics were a bit primitive. One particular lesson learned is still taught in the Soldier’s Field Manual at WestPoint stating a soldier should always avoid the short cut across the TARPITS.
During all this time, the Lord often reminds Abraham that he will be blessed by God so that to try to number his descendants will like trying to count the grains of sand on the shore, or the stars in the skies. There was of course the minor problem that AARP collectors Abram and Sarai had no kids.
So now the plot thickens as Sarai (the good wife) says to Abram, “Why don’t you sleep with my slave girl Hagar?” I have a couple of Back Pew comments with this part of the story.
1. When I think of Hagar, I think of that Viking cartoon character Hagar the Horrible.
2. My wife has never offered me a slave girl to sleep with! Of course if she did I would say very politely, “Why Mary, thank you very much for this most generous offer, BUT (with the vision of Hagar the Horrible in my head) I’m good.” I may not be a great man of faith like Abram, but my momma didn’t raise NO DUMMY!!
But Abram ignores the tell tale warning signs that this idea is DUMBER-ER than a bag of hammers, and wanders out onto THIN ICE IN THE HOT DESERT and says more than howdy-do to the lovely miss Hagar.
Hagar now becomes pregnant by Abram and Sarai lets Abram have it by probably saying something like, “I told you to sleep with her, but not SLEEP with her!” To which Abram so eloquently in his defense says, “Huh? What? But you said!!! I thought I could.... Huh?”
As you can read in chapter 16, this arrangement is nothing you ever see discussed on Focus on the Family, Oprah, or even The Jerry Springer show. These chapters are NOT in the Bible as an example how to model the perfect marriage, but to instead show us God is faithful and caring for Abram and Sarai even when they do really dumb things. Fortunately for all of us, our foolish choices are covered by God’s grace and goodness.
In chapter 17, God says to Abram to change his name from Abram, to Abraham. I wonder if this was so that he could start fresh and people would not know he was the guy who lied that Sarai was his sister, and slept with his wife’s slave girl. Sarai also has her named changed to Sarah. Then near the end of the chapter 99 year old Abraham is circumcised. This profound scripture emphatically reminds me not to complain about my own aches and pains. And all men collectively shout AMEN!!.. and .. YOWTCHEE!!
So there you have another story of a very flawed man used by God in great ways. I thank God for His love and grace not dependent on my perfection.
I pray God finds us all faithful in words and deeds and willing to hear God's voice when He calls us.
Jeff (my wife is not my sister) Larson
If you have ever seen the movie Field of DREAMS you will know it’s about an Iowa farmer who hears voices telling him to plow under his corn crop and build a baseball field where the ghosts of old pro players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, would play. Now of course, the neighbors and the town folk think he is nuts, and that he is risking his farm for the sake of old baseball players that no one can see but himself.
The decision for this Iowa farmer to listen to whispering voices saying, “If you build it, they will come”, and then to build a ballpark without having a real explanation of what this is all about takes some faith. So what about Noah?
The Bible tells us that Noah was a righteous man, and faithful to God in a world of sin.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 6:5-6
and so God tells Noah, If you build it, they will come. Genesis 6:13-21 in this case THEY are a literal ‘boat-load’ of animals.
If you think an Iowa farmer got funny looks plowing under his crop/ livelihood, so that he could build a ballpark, I am sure that's nothing compared to Noah building a humungous boat in the middle of a desert. It became Noah’s “Field of Streams”.
Of course this Desert Ark Building attracted some serious ridicule, or at the very least a few chuckles and smirks from the town folk.
Noah builds this ark out of cypress wood. It is 450 feet, 75 feet wide, and 40 feet tall.
Next, please note the Ark Project was constructed by 600 yr. old Noah with the assistance of his 100 year old sons.
Think about it, Noah was approximately 10 times older than me, and his three 'boys' were 3 times older than my two sons.
Anyways, the ark is built, and then the collection and storing of the animal pairs begins.
Let me add a little perspective here..
and Regarding dogs & cats folklore has it if not for Noah’s keen 600 year old eyes and senses, the demise of the common house cat would have been a certainty.
Also illustrated below are a few more boarding the Ark highlights.. including the demise of the Unicorn.
GRAB YOUR UMBRELLA
Once the animals were all boarded, God seals the Ark and the skies opened up which not one local Weather channel predicted, and those left behind did perish. These flood waters go higher and higher until on I believe the 40th day the highest mountains are covered.
I know the question sometimes arises as to whether or not this was a local or world widen flood. What I do know is it was a WHOLE LOT OF WATER.
LIFE AT SEA..
So now there is a time where God floats the boat. Loaded with animals of every kind I cannot imagine how this all worked out. I am challenged to get my one rescue dog out several times a day to ensure he does not do his 'bizness' on the carpet so 'say-no-more' bout' waste management on this sea sick petting zoo. But on the bright side the excursions and amenities not found on any other Cruise line, and since they would be in the Ark for I believe 371 days, they might as well make the best of what Noah's Luxury Cruise had to offer..
ALL ASHORE THAT'S GOING ASHORE!
Finally the the waters subsided and the ark settled on one of the mountains of Ararat .
Once it became safe to leave the Ark, the animals were let go, must have been as interesting as the boarding), and shortly there after the first pooper scooper was invented.
In all seriousness now, this was the new beginning for manking, and God signed with a RAINBOW His promise that he would never destroy the Earth by flood again.
Noah was a righteous man, and lived to be an incredible 950 years, just 19 years less than longevity king Methuselah.
THIS WAS ONE CRAZY BOAT RIDE..
I have to be honest the story of Noah, the Ark, the boarding of every animal two by two, all culminating with a Flood killing all life leaves me scratching my head. BUT just like the flood was an act of God, so was this animal control process. So I must distinguish between hard to understand and don’t believe. I believe, but can I tell you how it happened.. NOPE. It's as they say.. 'above my pay grade'.
I believe God hears our honest questions, and our lack of understanding, and in reply he may simply say, “Of course you don’t”.
One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 55:8,9 where God declares, “My ways are not your ways. Neither are my thoughts your thoughts. For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are my ways than your ways and my thoughts than yours.”
So again.. when I don’t understand – but still I believe!
CUTE STORY? SOBERING TRUTH? or both?
In summary, the story of Noah has today often is told as a children’s story. Christian Gift Shops have cute figurines of Noah, and his Ark all filled with smiling animals. Also, in my cartoon world the story of Noah's Ark is loaded with silly fodder. BUT the story of Noah has a sobering message balancing perfectly God’s providence for the faithful and obedient with harsh judgment of a wicked world.
The story of Noah and the ark is our story
This is a world of great sin where the hearts of man (just like in Ge 6:5-6) appears to be on evil all the time. The Great News is those who love God receive His Amazing Love & Grace… but again realize.. HOW WE CONDUCT OUR LIVES MATTERS ETERNALLY. if we choose self over God than our eternity is the same as those outside the Ark. We may not get all wet by a supernatural Great Flood, but we will be just as lost, just as judged, and just as damned.
May God bless each of you to be faithful and obedient to God while living in this self indulgent world.
Jeff (wearing my waterwings today) Larson
I found a web site which lists the oldest people living today. When I checked it I read of a lady who was 115, and another that was 125, and then some lady I think from Peru that was supposedly 140! There was a picture of this lady and, yes, she looked every bit of 140. Of course I am not sure how we can really know she is that old (count her wrinkles like the rings on a tree?), but there is no doubt she is very, very old.
So segue back to Genesis after Cain kills his brother Abel we move on to a ‘a whole-lotta-begetting’ going on. God’s command to “go forth and multiply” was one command mankind took to heart well beyond just knowing their times tables!
But old in Genesis is a relative thing. People in Genesis times lived to be sometimes 800 or 900 years old.
Adam lived to be 930 years old after God created him on the 6th day Genesis 5:5. His son Seth was 912 Genesis 5:8, Noah later on in Genesis we learn lived to be 950 years, and the long in the tooth award winner is .. Methuselah... the oldest man in the history of .. HISTORY. Methuselah was cut down in the prime of life at the age of 969 Genesis 5:25-27
I figure if I eat my veggies, drink milk, get 8 hours of sleep a night along with daily exercise and in only 907 more birthdays I will have Methuselah beat. That will be in the year.. 2928 when I am neighbors with George Jetson.
They say you are only as old as you feel and I find this to be very little encouragement some days when feeling 'Genesis5esque' old. Maybe not Methuselah old, but at least somewhere in the mid 500s. and to think they did not have Ibuprophen.
The other interesting pattern of this was how old people were still.. um.. still.. ‘begetting’. While one of today’s serious society concerns is teen pregnancies, this was not the problem with society recorded in Genesis.
In Genesis 5 it was not unusual for a couple to wait 70 to 500 years old before starting a family. I guess those 500 years were spent playing golf, world travel using up trips to Hawaii, paying off the mortgage(s), credit card debt, or marking hot yoga off their bucket list.
Maybe women in Genesis 5 wanted a career as a shepherdess, garden mogul, or working as a Mary Kay Cosmetics specialist before settling down and having kids.
Note: This parenting trend even held true even after Noah came onto the scene.
At age 500 Noah had three sons, and when he was about 600 years old when the Lord told him to start his Desert Ark Marina, and from what I read his sons helped with this process.
Ok, so picture this - 600 year old Noah, and his three 100 year old sons building a very big (BBIIIGGG) boat. Five hundred years old!? That would be like Columbus still being around, and working with those old people I found on that web site to build an ark. Of course Columbus may understand boats, BUT.. HE’S VERY OLD AND VERY DEAD, and those people from the website are VERY OLD and will be dead soon enough.
I do believe these stories we read about in Genesis, but in our modern world I have trouble picturing this Old Testament culture. But then again, I suppose IF Noah reappeared in the desert near the city of Las Vegas (aka Sin City), he would most likely sigh and say, “I better get busy building another ark in the desert again because society is certainly going to Hell.” (insert pun here).
Let me close these early chapters of Genesis with a few more images sharing a Back Pew perspective.
So while it is hard for me to grasp the fact that I am 63.. a Methuselah like age (969) boggles the mind. But like so many things in the Bible, just because I don’t understand does not make it not true.
From Genesis through Revelation I find the evidence and promise of God’s love and grace.
From the Garden to the Flood to the Cross all the way through life today sitting in my Back Pew there is this promise and evidence of a loving God.
May God bless each of you today in ways that are beyond your dreams. I pray you place your faith and hopes in the one true God of our Bibles.
Jeff (Methuselah like aches & pains) Larson
So Adam and Eve leave Eden, and start a family with their two fine boys Cain & Abel. The Bible does not tell us too much about the boys lives, but that Cain liked veggies, whilst Abel tended animals. These both seemed like wonderful career choices as Silicon Valley technology opportunities were limited at this time.
All is fine and good livin' La-vi-la-Genesis until Cain and Able were to bring their gifts to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s gift, but rejected Cain’s. For this Back Pew cartoonist, this provided an interesting moment between these boys debating the health risks of too much red meat.
Admittedly Cain did overreact when his ‘garden salad gift’ was rejected by God by killing his brother. No more Red Bull energy drinks for Cain.
When God asks Cain what happened to his brother he gives the time honored answer. “Am I my brothers keeper?” and perhaps then deflected from his guilt mumbling about his PETA membership being disrespected.
So there you have it. Adam, Eve, a Garden neglected, and two boys that fight. God's creation is certainly off to a fine start.
Sin and the fall of man was inevitable, and was the result of man's free will choice just as our sins are.. but moving from apple eating to murder was a big jump on the sin meter.
The consequences of sin for Adam & Eve was they were evicted from The Garden of Eden, and now for Cain became a homeless wanderer.
THE GREAT NEWS is that neither Adam's eating apples, Cain killing his brother, or any other creative sin of man is NOT beyond the redemption found in GOD'S GRACE.
My prayer is we all learn from these Genesis lessons of free will rebellion gone horribly bad. Most of us I like to think will never commit murder, but our sins great and small are all selfish rebellions of emotions and ignorance that fly in the face of God's will.
When this happens, and it will.. return to God (repentance is good for the heart) just like the prodigal children we all are.
Repent and accept God's free gift of grace. If we don't repent we will be like Cain.. a homeless wanderer of this Earth and missing the greater purpose intended for each of us.
Jeff (not a murderer) Larson
After creating the world God placed Adam and Eve in the beautiful Garden of Eden (aka paradise), and in the center of this garden was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Ge 2:17 which Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat of its fruit. A Great setting for a Garden Party, until.. it was ruined.
So how do you ruin a Garden Party?
Rain, snow, gloom of night (mailman stuff), or maybe forget to send out the invites to your party? Of course snow & ice might happen here in Minnesota (paradICE), but not in paradise (Eden), so how Adam & Eve ruin this Garden Party?
Genesis 2:19-20 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
So as Senior Garden Engineer Adam did his best Dr. Doolittle imitation and talked to the animals naming them one by one. What a daunting task, but 'in the beginning' the streaming library on Netflix was limited, there was no Sunday football, and this task was assigned before Eve arrived with her 'Honey Do List(s)' so he had plenty of time to name a 'couple animals'.
Ok, admittedly all the animals are not pets, but I know my one little rescue dog could get into the right amount of mischief to ruin a garden party. Either chewing up something that is not his, sneaking food that is not his, or.. leaving little doggie-doo 'presents' that are his and I have stepped in.
But we do not read any animals (even a mischievous rescue dog ruined the Garden Party.
So if it wasn't the animals, then who was to blame?
Genesis 3:1-7 So next enters ‘ The Snake’ aka Satan, and the snake tempts Eve that eating fruit is a good thing and she does, and offers it Adam and he eats too.
In defense of Adam, though he did disobey God (being a married man myself) I remember early in our marriage my wife made a special dinner and she asked if I liked it and I foolishly answered "it was ok, but not my favorite".. This landed me on thin ice, and the waters below were icy cold!
But I digress.. So they both eat the apple, and all of a sudden they feel a draft, as they realize they are naked.
Naked and Uncomfortable (sounds like a Discovery Channel reality show) and more uncomfortable in a draft than a 1960's hippy was getting a draft notice from Uncle Sam!
In case of the hippy, he burned his draft card and headed to Oh Can-a-daaa Eh!, In contrast, Adam & Eve realized they were drafted while being naked.
There was no Old ‘Testament’ Navy, GAP (except between the leaves!), or levi's stores in the Garden so Adam & Eve being naked went for the ‘obvious’ line of clothing.. FIG LEAVES?
Ge 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
But.. this 'Fig Leaf' line of fashion had at least a couple serious drawbacks.
1. Leaf blight, and squirrels, and
2. Fig Leaves were simply not all that flattering. No woman when asking how she looks, wants to hear the words.. "You look like a SHRUB".
And now seeing the bigger picture outside of the world of fashion, Adam & Eve realized life would never be the same. Sin caused a host of irrational emotions.
Ge 3:8-9 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. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
The Invention of the Blame Game..
Naked and afraid Adam & Eve were playing 'Hide & Seek' with God. This is where the time honored (or dishonored) 'Blame Game' was first used. First Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake did not have a leg (literally & figuratively) to stand on!
This my friends is how you ruin a Garden Party!
About a week later a CSI investigation corroborated the entire Genesis 3 account.
So the fall out from this original sin was the snake, woman, and man were cursed and Adam & Eve were then EVICTED from the Garden while Willie Nelson played 'On the Road Again' in the background.
Since Genesis 3, our sinful flawed nature has compromised what God has intended for our lives.
The Sin Parallel
Adam & Eve chose to disobey God, eat the forbidden apple and then try to hide from God. While we may not live anything close to Paradise, the 'sin parallel' is the same. .. our sins are our willful choice that separate us from God, and then we hide! It matters what we do, say, and/or think, and our disobedience in big or small ways lands compromises the good God intends for us.
GOOD NEWS IS.. God's Grace is as they say AMAZING. He will accept us back after any big or small prodigal moments when we truly repent. BUT please note.. God will not be mocked.. an insincere whoopsie attitude towards our sin move us further away from the safety and blessings God intends for us.
My prayer today all of us to pursue a greater love for our God. To be in a place where obedience to our loving Heavenly Father is a natural expression of this love. May God impress on our hearts His love for us, He desires the very best for us, and realize His Word is a light to guide us in this dark world.
Jeff (weedy garden) Larson
Final Notes.. It was a strange new world in the Beginning ripe with a few more Genesis Garden cartoon musings.
If we took a poll on our favorite books of the Bible, you may hear the Gospel of John, Psalms, Proverbs, James, Philippians, but I am quite sure Leviticus is NOT in the top 10, or 50, or maybe 65 books of the Bible. But this year, I have discovered Leviticus Rocks.
No I am not talking about an archeological dig dated back to the time of Leviticus.. I am talking about recent important lessons God's Spirit has taught me while reading the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus.. All those seemingly archaic lists of dos and don'ts regarding the bugs, rats, owls, or lizards you cannot eat do NOT make Leviticus a page turner unless you are in a through the Bible reading plan and by turning pages to get on to the next book of the Bible. Unfortunately the next book is the book of Numbers which starts out with a Census taken on the twelve tribes of Israel. "ROLL CALL, everybody get in line and count off by one. Zzzzzzz...."
This year is I believe my 5th year on reading through my Bible in one year, and second year in a row. Last year I did it chronologically, this year I return to a mix of Old and New Testament each day. For me, reading through my Bible provides me context that I otherwise may miss. I do also enjoy other studies, books by popular Christian authors past and present, BUT I find God speaks to me best when it is just me and His word.
And this year I am loving Leviticus. Livin' la-vida-Leviticus!
Leviticus deals with the significant for the nation of Israel in the years right after being miraculously freed (including the parting of the Red Sea) from slavery in Egypt. These Levitical laws included the details of animal sacrifices to the Lord, strict requirements for priests, punishments by stoning, and much more. All these and more are difficult to fathom while living in our modern world of 'cheap grace' that follows celebrity preachers with a what happens in 'America' stays in 'America' attitude.
But this year reading Leviticus God spoke to me regarding his Holiness, and the importance of these animal sacrifices done in great detail was a true reverence to God. Ok, today in our land of PETA, animal sacrifices are not easy to grasp, but Levitical sacrifices were written for a world much different than ours, BUT..
the same reverence for God and doing what is pleasing in the Eyes of the Lord is still relevant. But for today, Jesus took the place of these sin offerings.
Even the scriptures on stoning in certain situations I understand now making sense. In one case a man blasphemed God, and was to be put to death by stoning. Today, that line for stoning those who blaspheme God would be very long and run waaay around the corner. And I agree on face value STONING seems very harsh.
But think of it.. In a time shortly after this man was miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt by the very hand of God now decides to blaspheme Him. I don't pretend to know the mind of God, but this man would be in my eyes the poster child for mocking God. and GOD IS NOT MOCKED. Leviticus 24:10-23, Galatians 6:7
I think without the stoning part our society angers our loving God with our cavalier smug attitude judgments of God himself. We don't just have questions about God, we judge Him. We lower in our eyes the creator of this world who exists outside time in space to our blip in time existence. Think of it, the very creator of this universe being deemed wrong by our 'pea brained' insights on justice. We judge God as not loving even though mankind's free will is the root cause of all pain and death. WHAT ARROGANCE.
Then laws about qualifications for being a High Priest. .. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. Leviticus 21:18-20
Ok, as a cartoonist I of course find humor in this, BUT.. in truth the importance of the High Priest being set apart and special speaks to today's cavalier by comparison selection of preachers (men of God).
This world of is a glut of celebrity preachers, hot preachers, easy grace preachers, new age / progressive preachers making these Levitical laws on High Priests wise by comparison to our low standards for today's 'supposed' men of God.
Ok, I am not sure how well this blog is received today. I don't believe I have convinced many to make Leviticus their favorite book of the Bible, but I pray what I have shared gives some much needed context for this often cringe-worthy book of Old Testament law.
There is a song by Mercy Me, Word of God Speak.. let me share the lyrics of this song below, and I pray these words give us perspective on the Power of God's Word and His Spirit in using these words to speak life into us.
"Word Of God Speak"
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak
I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice
[REPEAT CHORUS 2x]
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
Link to Play song-> Word of God Speak
My prayer today is for each of us this year to put in our most high regard, God's Word. I pray we are quiet enough to hear God speak to us by His Spirit these words of Life.. even in Leviticus
Word of God Speak!
Jeff (Levitical low priest) Larson
Supersized and drive through meals ... delivered freaky fast your way that are finger lickin' good. These are a few fast food 'conveniences' for our fast paced lives in the fast lane. I am guilty of participating in both ordering my share of supersized McArtery Clogger Value Meals, and using the drive through for lunch, lattes, and my banking needs. Life is busy and there is a time and a place for fast food, and fast service but there is a time and a place to SLOW DOWN.
Now as I segue to my faith journey.. I find awkward parallels to our fast food society.
1. I want the blessings on my life supersized now please,
2. I sometimes pray like I am using a drive thru window. I don't even slow down to say hello to God but place my order/prayer list with the angel stationed at my drive thru prayer window. And..
3. my patience for His answers rivals my belief that microwave popcorn still takes waaay too long.
Moral of this blurb is.. God does listen to and answer my freaky fast faith moments (sometimes that is all I have), BUT how much better my perspective is when ..
There will be those times where freaky fast faith is all we have time for, but let's purposefully slow down and make time with God that is more than a microwaved/reheated moment of spiritual nourishment. Maybe a home cooked God's Family Meal... with desert.
Hmm.. I am getting hungry.
May God bless and use each of you for His glory in SUPERSIZED ways
Jeff (McBack Pew) Larson
The mutterings on life and faith by cartoonist Jeff Larson