Genesis 11, Ezra 10, Matthew 8

Read Genesis 11, Ezra 10, and Matthew 8 today and this devotional which is about Genesis 11.

The flood was over and back in Genesis 9 God renewed his original covenant with humanity. God had told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” in Genesis 1:28b; in Genesis 9:1 God told Noah and his sons the same thing: “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.'”

Chapter 10 described for us in geneaological form how the three sons of Noah developed into three branches of the human family tree. Here in Genesis 11, the people in society decided they did NOT want to follow God’s commands to “fill the earth.” In verse 4 we learned that the people felt they had to build a city because “otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” The desire for human unity, then, was to unite against God and his commands.

The Lord confused their langauge in order to keep humanity from unitiing against him. In the words of verse 6, “The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” The phrase, “nothing… will be impossible for them” was not an expression of fear that humanity would gain omnipotence. Rather, it is a statement that the wickedness of humanity would know no boundaries if people could communicate freely. The language boundaries God created at Babel caused one language-group to distrust and fear the other language groups. That fear caused each group to seek safety in distance which “scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

This passage does not teach that language or cultural or racial boundaries must be maintained. God did create humanity to be a unified group. It was sin that necessitated the boundaries that we read about in this chapter and that remain today.

When Jesus taught the disciples to “make disciples of all nations” (v. 19), he was re-establishing the basis on which humanity could and should function as a unit rather than as separate people groups. The basis of human unity is God. When humanity worships the true God, it can truly be one. But that “one-ness” is oneness in Christ, not in humanity or in common approaches to living in sin.

God wants the human race united but he wants us to be united in holiness, not in ungodliness. Babel is about dividing the world so that it will not be united in ungodliness. Jesus and his redemption is about uniting the world in him.

We can have great fellowship and genuine love, then, with people look different than we do, talk differently than we do, and have a different cultural heritage. When Christ returns and establishes his kingdom, all believers from every nation, language, culture, and race will be united in every aspect of reality because we are united to Christ spiritually.

So, don’t separate from others because they have a different language or skin color or whatever else. Instead, unite with other Christians from different culures, love them genuinely, and seek to reach others for Jesus regardless of human boundaries. “God does not show favoritism” according to Romans 2:10 so let’s not be guilty of that, either.

James 2

Today read James 2.

James 2 is a chapter about favoritism. Verses 1-13 speak to the issue of favoritism directly; verses 14-25 speak more generally about the need for a faith that works. Verses 14-25, of course, can stand on their own and contribute quite a bit to our understanding of faith and works, but in context they are related to the issue of favoritism.

Favoritism is a very natural human attitude. It is impossible for you to be friends with everyone you ever meet in your life but you need friends, so your mind will inevitably apply some kind of filter to the people you meet to separate those who look like they are worth being friends with from those who don’t look like they are worthy of your friendship. But verse 1 confronts our natural human tendency directly and commands us not to show favoritism toward others. Verses 2-3 give a hypothetical example of the kind of favoritism that believers in their era could be tempted to show. We give the best treatment to someone who comes to church looking wealthy and important while disrespecting someone who looks poor. Verse 4 exposes why we do this so naturally, “have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” Verses 5-7 explain why this kind of favoritism is ungodly (as in “un-God-like”) and verses 8-11 remind us that God’s word commands us to love others–including the unlovely.

Here at Calvary we send our first time guests an online survey that asks them 4 questions, 3 of them about their experience worshipping here the first time. We consistently get high marks for being friendly and caring. I praise the Lord for that.

However, some people who start attending our church regularly have told me that they’ve found it hard to make new friends here. They are very nice about it and don’t accuse us of deliberately excluding others but I have heard some very regular attenders say that there are a lot of deep networks already existing among the families in our church and that they are cautious about trying to get included in those networks. I do not think anyone is deliberately avoiding newer people and families, but I do wonder how often we think about deliberately INCLUDING newcomers to our church. This is a more subtle form of favoritism; it favors not the rich over the poor but the familiar over the unknown. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 8) applies here. Wouldn’t you want people in a new church to make a point of deliberately including you? Wouldn’t you enjoy being invited over after church or having your kids invited to a birthday party for a child in the church?

Think about some ways in which we as God’s people can be more loving in how we treat those who come to worship with us. This is one way in which we evidence our faith by our works (v. 18).