THEME: Mercy in the Midst of Judgment
This week’s lessons show the importance of repentance in view of the certainty of a coming judgment, which in God’s mercy is being delayed.
So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
Well it’s true, of course that the final judgment has not yet come; God has delayed his final reckoning. But if you look to past history, if you look to these great marks of judgments, these things stand there in history and in the pages of the Word of God as warnings. Certainly, this is true of the Jewish invasion of Canaan. It’s God’s way of saying that there is judgment even among the nations. Righteousness exalts a nation, but a nation that goes the way of sin and perversions is inevitably brought down. These things also stand as a warning of a judgment to come finally at the end of time. We mustn’t think that God will be any different with us than he was for those ancient cultures.
Yet, what I want to close on and take just a bit of time to talk about is the fact that although all are guilty and although God does judge sin, there is nevertheless a time of God’s grace in which judgment is delayed because of mercy. Certainly, we see that in the story of Joshua. The very passage that we’ve read, that passage that says they burned the whole city and everything in it, tells us about the salvation of Rahab. That’s there for a reminder that although this city and its people were devoted to destruction, there was nevertheless one who in the mercy of God had received an opportunity to learn about the God of Israel and to turn from sin and respond to Him and the gospel so far as she knew it. Rahab demonstrated her faith by identifying with the spies and saving them, which eventually led to her being counted among the Jewish people.
Let me give another example of that. In those passages I read from Peter and Jude, particularly the passage from Peter, you find reference to the flood in the days of Noah, which was certainly one of the great cataclysmic judgments of history. That judgment makes these other judgments relatively minor affairs. As horrible as the conquest of Canaan may have been from the point of view of the Canaanites, it was still a relatively small country in one remote area of the world. The same thing is true of other historical judgments. However, this was not true of the flood, which killed all who were living on the face of the earth at that time, with the exception of Noah and his family.
The reason I turn to that at this point is not for the testimony that it gives to the reality of God’s judgment, but to the evidence we have in that story even of God’s grace. In that story, in the chapter immediately preceding the one that begins to tell about the flood, there is a list of the godly patriarchs that preceded Noah. In that long list of righteous patriarchs there is the man who is known to most of us as the man who lived longer than any man on earth. Methuselah lived 969 years. That man is a symbol of God’s mercy, and he’s a symbol of God’s mercy even in the midst of judgment for these reasons.
First of all, there is the meaning of his name, which can be interpreted in different ways. Some of the liberal scholars take it as meaning “the man of the javelin,” or “the man of the weapons.” It’s a possible translation, although it doesn’t have any meaning in the context of the story. It could also come from the words moot, which means “to die” and shalah, which means “to send.” Taking those two together, it would be possible to give a colloquial translation of Methuselah as being this, “When he dies, it will come.” I say that although that is only one of two possible meanings of the word, it’s the meaning that should be preferred because of the way Methuselah appears in the story in these great chapters leading up to the flood.
The second thing that bears upon the meaning of his name and his significance is the fact that the genealogy given in Genesis 5 can be accurately established by the years in which each of the patriarchs was born and the year in which he had his first child, through whom this particular genealogical line is traced. There is some difficulty in dealing with genealogies in Scripture, particularly when we’re trying to establish time periods by them. It’s because in some of the Old Testament genealogies, there are names which in other genealogies are left out. But this does not mean that those who have left them out made a mistake. It simply means that the biblical writers looked at genealogies a bit differently than we do. We think we have to have each piece in place. On the other hand, they were more or less concerned with tracing the general drift of the lineage. For example, Jesus Christ is said to be the son of David, even though Jesus came many, many generations after David. Still it’s proper to say this about Jesus Christ in order to show that genealogical connection.
In talking about the genealogy in Genesis 5, however, we notice that whenever that genealogy appears elsewhere, the list always accurately, name for name, reestablishes the list we have in Genesis. Moreover, in Genesis, unlike the other genealogies, the actual years are given. That encourages us to put them together and trace it out as giving us these great landmarks in the early centuries of the history of the human race.
What significant point does Dr. Boice make from the story of Noah’s flood?
Why is Methuselah an important figure?
Every portion of the Word of God, even genealogies, teaches us about who God is, and how we ought to respond to him.