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by Kristen C. Strocchia
“John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits from before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:4-6
The apostle John opens with a greeting to the seven churches of Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. Now the Romans had a Leading Council of Asiarchs that met on a yearly rotation to six of these same influential cities. The seventh–a much more northernly city–John swapped for the centrally located Thyatira. It’s possible that these cities were also the postal centers for seven geographic regions which would have facilitated delivery and dissemination of the Revelation given to him.
Grace is an important greeting. Basically blessing people with more goodness than they deserve. Grace is the crux of God’s gift in the gospel, and the apostles often greeted their readers with that unmerited favor, paying forward what God had done for them. Peace is another powerful spiritual blessing. Especially when the enemy–Satan–is at work to steal, kill and destroy. [John 10:10]. He brings confusion and conflict where God intended peace [John 14:27].
And John doesn’t claim this in and of himself. He passes the grace and peace of the One True, eternal God the father–like the conduit that we’re each meant to be–onto the seven churches. But he also sends these from the seven spirits before God’s throne and from Jesus Christ the son of God. Who are the seven spirits? Revelation 1:20 indicates that these are the angels for each of the seven churches. What a wonderful thing to know that there are ministering spirits who are also contending on our behalf.
Jesus the Messiah is described as being the faithful witness. We can count on his testimony on our behalf if we have believed on Him [John 3:16]. He is described as the firstborn from the dead. Before Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected, no one else had been born again into new life. True, Jesus raised Lazarus and others from the dead, but they had not yet been born again because death still reigned. It is only through Jesus that we can be born again and have eternal life because he conquered death, hell and the grave to make that possible [1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Timothy 1:20; Revelation 1:18]. He is called the ruler of the kings of the earth, because all authority has been established by him [Matthew 28:18; Romans 13:1] and is subject to him.
The praise of Jesus continues. Glory–high renown or honor–be given to Jesus alone because 1) He loves us; 2) He died for us which freed us from the curse of sin; 3) He redeemed our heavenly citizenship which was lost in the Fall of Man. But not just glory. John also ascribes power–dominion, authority over our lives–for all time, to Jesus Christ, and stamps it with Amen–so let it be!
Is Jesus glorified [aka honored] by your life? In other words, do others see how amazing Jesus is when they meet/get to know you? Does Jesus have all authority in your life? Have you submitted everything to Him?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you–the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you–every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Genesis 9:8-11
Covenant. Agreement. Guarantee. Pledge. Commitment. Contract. God promises Noah and his family, but also all of the creatures on the ark, that He will never again destroy the world in a flood. He will never again wash away sin by a physical deluge.
This speaks so poignantly to the character of God. People find God inconsistent because He sent worldwide destruction through the flood one time and never again. But I for one am glad that I don’t have to worry. That every time the worldwide sin levels rise, they won’t trip the divine deluge trigger. I am so thankful for God’s promise that I can live in peace, by grace through faith, until He comes again and I meet Him in the air.
And the fact that God promises the animals too, that says something about their importance to Him. For while human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation, the animals are no less the work of His hand. Scriptures tell us that not a sparrow falls to the ground that He doesn’t know about [Matthew 10:29].
All life is sacred to God. And He commands us to steward it [Genesis 1:26; Mark 12:31].
Do you value human and animal life as God does? Do you have peace, resting in God’s promises?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds–everything that moves on land–came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” Genesis 8:18-20
The ark was emptied in order to replenish the earth. What a sight to see all of the animals of the world–literally–parading out in two by two formation.
And Noah’s first response is to honor God.
The burnt offering of Leviticus 1–first seen here in Genesis 8–is an atonement sacrifice. Now Abel also offered an atonement sacrifice when he offered the fat portions of the firstborn of his flocks [4:4], but Noah’s sacrifice here is the first time that we learn of a burnt offering. And he did so using clean animals.
In human logic, this makes perfect sense. Remember that of clean animals there were seven pairs–fourteen total of each kind! Naturally, you wouldn’t sacrifice any of the animals that only had one pair, that would bring the extinction of their whole kind after God just went to all this length to preserve them. Still, Noah could have done it. He could have said to himself, “But tigers and peacocks look so much cooler and more powerful than goats and bulls. If I were God, wouldn’t I want that as a sacrifice instead?”
Because often, that’s our human logic in dealing with God. “If I were God”–*cough…Satan’s lie…cough*–then I would think… or I would want… So I don’t get why God thinks the way He does or wants what He does, because, you know, I certainly wouldn’t.”
Do you see where this line of thought comes from and leads to? Comes from Satan. Leads to death and destruction. Because any line of reasoning that substitutes self as God is the line of reasoning that felled a third of the angels of heaven and barred Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, cursing the earth with the nature of sin.
But to this point in scripture, just as with Abel, there is no mention of God instituting or requesting a sacrifice of any kind. Abel knew God though–in an intimate, experiential way–as did Noah, and both men acted on this faith, this absolute certainty of what they hoped for but could not see.
Noah knew God. He knew that God hated sin, and that there was sin even in him. He didn’t become conceited by the fact that God noticed his righteousness and saved him out of the whole world. On the contrary, he humbled himself before the Almighty Creator, the Holy of Holies, and he offered a right sacrifice to atone–make amends/repairs/peace with–God for that sin.
Has God ever chosen to use you in a situation? Do you let this make you proud or does it humble you? Do you know God by the same kind of faith that Abel and Noah did? Have you asked God to atone for your sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“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. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created–and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground–for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:5-8
What is wickedness? And what is evil? Both are defined–in modern dictionaries–as being morally wrong or profoundly immoral. But in our day, wickedness and evil seem to be used of the darkest, most heinous imaginings of horror films, terrorists and serial killers. People wouldn’t define such acts as just immoral. In fact, immorality is decried as narrow-mindedness, because, by definition, morality means conforming to socially accepted standards of right conduct.
However, when the Creator of the world is the standard of morality, and this Creator is the holy God, then immorality means not conforming to His accepted standard of right conduct. And by His definition in scripture, such godlessness [immorality] is wicked and it is evil.
Every thought of every heart was only godless–immoral, self-serving without regard for God or fellow humankind–all the time. Everyone thought only of themselves. Everyone tore each other down to self-promote, tore each other apart to self-preserve, tore marriage and family apart to self-gratify. The sinful nature of humanity tore and tore and tore at the threads of God’s image in them until they tore Him from the midst of their existence altogether. Until they tore themselves from the very heart of God.
And He was loathe that He’d ever formed the man, Adam, and the woman, Eve, that day. Their descendants had become such a vile stench that God was loathe He’d lent His very own breath of life to our existence. And He was willing to utterly destroy every creature of His creation that could not breathe water in order to remove once and for all, right then and there, the sin that had so corrupted every good thing that He had made.
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Do you feel the enormity of that statement? Imagine God’s spirit roving over the face of the whole earth and finding evil heart after evil heart–except for one man and one man alone. The man named peace. The man whose father prophesied the future of the whole world for all time into his life. The man Noah.
A prophesy is not a true prophesy unless it comes to pass. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord, and God found a way to redeem all that He had made through this one and only moral–righteous, that is right living by God’s standards–man.
Ever since this time, sin has again multiplied itself across the face of the earth in generation after generation, but God has promised to restrain His hand of judgment until the end [Genesis 9:15]. Yet, just as in the days of Noah, God is looking for one faithful, one righteous, one moral according to His ways through which He can work to redeem our world today.
Will that someone be you?
by Kristen C. Strocchia
“When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.’ After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other, and then he died.” Genesis 5:28-30
Seven generations after Seth, Lamech was born to the oldest man who ever lived–Methuselah [whose father had such a devout relationship with God that he was raptured thousands of years before Jesus even came and prophesied about our future rapture!] And, unlike the Lamech born in the line of Cain, it seems that this Lamech held some of his granddaddy Enoch’s regard for God.
Here we hear Lamech prophesying over his son, Noah’s, life [5:29]. Noah–meaning peace, rest, repose, consolation–would bring comfort. But who’s the us referred to? Obviously, Lamech himself may have found Noah a comfort in his lifetime as fathers and sons should be to one another. And Noah may have in fact spelled Lamech from some of his work when he was of age to help.
But look deeper. In the world, sinful man was alienated from their Creator God. In other words, there was hostility between man and God. Human beings needed not only to be redeemed [restored to their rightful sonship to God], but they also needed to be reconciled [restored to their rightful relationship with God–a relationship of peace].
Lamech named Noah peace because he understood that God would restore the peace of mankind to Himself through Noah and his line. He references the Genesis 3:17 curse spoken to Adam, which was only reversible by God’s plan of redemption, which, in Lamech’s lifetime, had not yet come to pass.
However, through Noah, God would bless the one family whose patriarch still held onto a right faith in God, and He would condemn all other lifestyles through the destruction of the only worldwide flood in world history. Through Noah, God would restart the world as at the Creation and preserve a family line through which He could send His promised redemption to restore the peace between God and man. Through Noah’s line, the world would come to have the Way, the Truth and the Life in the person of Jesus Christ, who Himself is our peace. Who Himself is coming again–having prepared a place for those who believe in Him [John 14:1-3]–to find eternal rest from the painful labor and toil of the sin-cursed earthly life.
How sad, that 595 years of childrearing Noah and his siblings, that Noah is the only one who remained faithful to God. Many of those destroyed in the flood were his immediate family. But Lamech died before the flood at a good old age of 777. Unlike his distant-great-uncle, Lamech McCain, who claimed 77 fold vengeance for the murders he committed [Genesis 4:24], Lamech MacSeth was blessed 777 fold for his faith in God.
There is no middle ground. No fence to walk between sinfulness and holiness. Either we believe in God and pursue right living. Or we deny God and pursue self-living. Which Lamech are you? Do you believe in God? Will you accept His redemption in your life? Will you be reconciled to Him and know peace?