Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Second Prophecy

In this second article in honor of Dr. Walvoord’s classic work, “Major Bible Prophecies,” we look at the true meaning of the rainbow, and yes, another instance of God’s provision of salvation by grace. The second major prophecy of the Bible is the curse of Noah’s offspring Canaan.

The growth in human population brought increasing sin to the world. The murder of Abel by Cain reveals the extent of the fall, and how the new reality of the statement,  “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door, and its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4:7).  The effect of the fall touched every aspect of creation – everyone born into this corrupted world is itself corrupt, not just a little, but every aspect of man has been corrupted. As Cain’s family is developed we find their character follows that of their father. Indeed, Cain’s  offspring personified sin. Their desire was for fame, they took multiple wives, the finest of things they could acquire, and the second murder was by the hands of Cain’s offspring.  As the apostle, John, defines,

16 For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)
As their family grew, wickedness grew to the point that God declared, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh” (Gen. 6:3a). “So the Lord said,  I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air” (Gen. 6:7a).

Yet there also sprung up a godly line that walked with God (Gen. 6:9a), meaning, Noah was a just man and in his daily walk he sought to do right in the eyes of the Lord. Noah had three sons and as Dr. Walvoord wrote, “Of the human race only Noah and his family, descendants of Seth, were still honoring the Lord. In His plan to destroy the earth, God determined to save Noah and his family and through them to make a new beginning of the human race.” 

After the waters of the flood receded, God established a new set of house rules. The new set of house rules is called by dispensationalists the dispensation of human government which covers the period of Genesis 8:20-11:32. The new rules were given by God along with a covenant with Noah (Gen. 8:20-9:17). God declared “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:21-22).  God’s covenant with Noah included a number of promises. (1) Noah was instructed to, “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). (2) God placed everything in creation under human authority, whether beasts or birds or fish (9:2-3). (3) For the first time God gave Noah the right not only to eat of the green plants but to eat meat from animals (9:3-6). But God made it clear not to eat of the animal flesh with its blood in it (9:4). (4) Capital punishment   was then instituted for anyone who takes a human life (9:5-6). (5) God promised Noah, “I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:11). (6) Finally, God gave the rainbow as a sign of the covenant.  What a beautiful sign which speaks of God’s protective glory that covers the sky as He provides us the blessing of rain in its season. In Hebrew a covering is the word used for a sacrifice. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the Lord provided an animal skin covering for them. Now, we find the rainbow serves as a kind of a metaphor of a covering in the ski for the sins of man – mercy provided by the One who sits on His Mercy Seat in heaven. The splendor of the colors of the rainbow reflects the splendor and glory of God.    

A fundamental change to the earth occurred with the flood. Seasons were now realized, rain for the first time was seen as the primary means of watering the earth. The age of mankind drastically decreased exponentially from around a thousand years down to around a hundred years. This decrease also reflects a change in both the atmospheric pressure and temperature as Noah is found drunk with fermented wine that he made from his vineyard (Gen. 9:20).

The text says, “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, backwards and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren. And he said: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:22-27).

Dr. Walvoord summarized, “The Canaanites, who were Ham’s descends, became a very wicked people and were perpetually enemies of Israel. They were particularly involved in sexual sin. Subsequent history recorded that the Canaanites occupied the place of slaves in relationship to Israel. This did not immediately stem from Noah’s condemnation but rather as a judgment of God upon them for their licentious lives. In Genesis 14 the Canaanites were enslaved by kings from the East, and later the Gibeonites, who also were descendants of Ham, became water carriers and woodcutters for the congregation and altar of the Lord (Josh. 9:27)…Eventually the Canaanites disappeared from the pages of history. 

This prophecy was fulfilled and as we read of it we find encouragement that God’s word is true. That is the purpose of prophecy – to bring a sobering word of encouragement. Dr. Walvoord concludes, “In contrast, Noah blessed Japheth, implying that his descendants would be a great people. Shem was blessed with Canaan as his slave: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave’” (Gen. 9:26-27).

It is no mistake that God gave Israel a land that was predominantly called Canaan. The prophecy is much richer than at first glance. “A servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.”  As Israel was released from Egyptian bondage, the slaves were move north to the land of Canaan. And after entering the land Canaan, they became their servants! How improbable is this prophecy? How big is God? He is the One who places the rainbow in the sky! The One who provides salvation and the One who judges – the Lord is His name.