Shelby G. Floyd
So good to see all of you on this winter day. Our winter is going by quickly. January is almost gone and soon we will be in February and before we know it spring will be here. We have a good audience today and I thank you for coming out to worship and to hear the word of God.
Many times we hear people say when they have a trauma in their lives, “God why don’t you just speak to me and tell me what to do.” Well that is what I want to talk to you about today, because God has been speaking to mankind since the day he created Adam. This is indicated by the words found in the letter to the Hebrews:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3 NKJV).
GOD SPOKE TO THE PATRIARCHS
For 2500 years, Almighty God spoke to the patriarchs or the fathers who were the head of the family. The fathers were responsible for transmitting God’s instruction to the family. And today we need more fathers who will take charge of the family and instruct the children in the way that God would have them to live and to be in subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord God created Adam and Eve, breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and they became living souls. They were placed in a perfect place, with the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was paradise. God spoke to Adam and Eve and gave them instructions of what they were to do and not to do. Sadly, they disobeyed God’s instructions and were expelled from the beautiful garden of Eden. Now they are to live in a sin cursed world with many hardships. But God still loved mankind that he had created, and he spoke to the fathers of the families instructing them how to worship and to be pleasing to him in all their ways.
It is evident from a very early example that God had instructed man to offer up animal sacrifice in their worship to God. As we said, God spoke directly to man. At this time and forward for 2500 years there was not a book written with God’s instructions to man. God spoke to man face-to-face in a very direct way.
It was not long after they were expelled from the garden that Adam and Eve had two sons to enter their family—Cain and Abel. Adam was responsible to instruct his sons how to worship God. Therefore God either spoke to Adam directly or to Cain and Abel as full-grown men themselves. At the very beginning of time, we have an example of acceptable worship and also worship that was rejected. Able worshipped God as he was instructed while Cain became a rationalist and worshipped God according to his own dictates. And this is how the Bible describes their worship in relationship to God:
“Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 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” (Genesis 4:4-7).
And so here in the opening chapters of the Bible we have an example of God speaking directly to man. And evidently from the example that we have just observed, God had commanded an animal sacrifice in worship to him. We discover a clue to the worship commanded, because when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden they were naked and God clothed them with the skins of animals: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). But where did they get these animal skins? Evidently they were commanded to offer up an animal sacrifice on the altar, and that is how they produced animal skins.
We know that this must be the case because the New Testament describes why God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not the sacrifice of Cain. Therefore, according to the Bible, Abel offered up worship unto God “by faith.” We read that in the book of Hebrews: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). So Abel is speaking to us today and he was speaking to the people in the day that the book of Hebrews was written. So Abel offered up his worship “by faith!” But how do we obtain faith? The Bible says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Therefore, God spoke either to Adam or to Cain and Abel as to the kind of sacrifice they were to offer up in worship. Furthermore the Bible says that Abel offered up to God “gifts” in the plural. Therefore this means that not only did he offer up an animal sacrifice, but he also offered up “free will offerings” which were also acceptable. Abel was a keeper of the sheep and so he offered up an animal sacrifice as well as other gifts. Cain was a vegetable farmer. Therefore he simply offered up what came naturally to him. And he disregarded offering up what God had commanded. No doubt God would have accepted his vegetables as well if he had offered up an animal sacrifice by faith!.
What is the lesson that we learn from studying the beginning chapters of the Bible? The main lesson that we learned is that we cannot substitute something else for what God has commanded us to perform! And Cain is an everlasting example of trying to offer up something else as a substitute instead of offering up what God has commanded by faith!
Therefore from this example we see that God spoke to the fathers from the very beginning. It started with Adam, and continued for the next 1656 years through the prophet Noah! This is called patriarchal rule – God rules through the fathers as the head of the family. This period of Patriarchy continued through 10 generations. They are listed: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah (Genesis 5:1-32). By the way Enoch was the seventh from Adam (Jude 14)! This illustrates how the Bible is always truthful and harmonizes in all of its statements. Another interesting note is that during these first 10 generations they lived an average of 858 years! Longevity of life was normal during this period of history. As the years go forward after this period we will see the life span of mankind is greatly shortened!
And it is interesting to note that about the eighth or the ninth generation these descendants of Adam could still have talked with Adam because Adam lived 930 years (Genesis 5:5)! They could have talked to their forefather Adam. They could have asked, “Adam, how was it back there in the garden of Eden?” “Oh, it was wonderful, until your grandmother messed up and God threw us out!” (laughter)! There is no doubt that these 10 generations passed down all of the information they had heard from the previous generations. But since there was not a book with all of that written down, we do not know anything about those first 10 generations until Moses gave the world the Pentateuch – the five books of the Old Testament. How did Moses know what to write about the first 2500 years? God revealed it to him, and he was inspired to preserve the historical record from the beginning of time (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Therefore during this long period of time, God spoke his word to the fathers as the head of the family. These fathers then were like a prophet, priest, and king to their family. Any father could go out and build an altar and offer up sacrifice to God. The Patriarchal fathers ruled the family!
THE SECOND PERIOD OF PATRIARCHY—NOAH THROUGH ABRAHAM!
As this period of patriarchy goes forward to the time of Noah, we discover that depravity prevailed over the earth because the wickedness of man was great. Even the intents and thoughts of the heart were continually evil. You would think that the people would be trying to live a godly life at a time when God spoke directly to the fathers of the family. But do you know that by the time of Noah, the 10th generation, the world had become very depraved and wicked! Therefore even when God was speaking directly to the fathers, it was in the heart of the people to do bad things. Therefore by the time we come to the godly man Noah, the word of God declares:
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 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, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:5-8 NKJV).
Lamech Prophesied Noah Would Make the Toil From The Soil Better!
Noah’s father, Lamech, lived 182 years. He predicted and prophesied that his son Noah would be a blessing concerning the work and the toil of earning a living from the soil:
And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:29).
It is my view that the flood cleansed the earth of its wickedness, but it also washed rich topsoil into all of the valleys of the earth. And this made raising food from the earth much easier and richer than it had been from the beginning after the earth was cursed! Therefore Lamech’s prophecy has been fulfilled and yet even today man is blessed in earning a living from the soil!
But God had a work and mission for Noah to do. During the days of Noah, God brought a great flood up on the whole earth. God spoke directly to Noah, and he prepared an ark as God had specified. After the flood had abated, God started mankind out afresh with the godly family of Noah. The apostle Peter in the New Testament describes the flood and how eight souls were saved through the flood water. And then he described how that water baptism as an antitype saves us today! He said that the people,
“who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Out of all of these people who were living an average of 858 years, there was one man who was trying to do the right thing. And Noah found grace and favor in the eyes of the Lord. The amazing grace of God, how wonderful it is. And so the period of patriarchy continues for 10 more generations from Noah to Abraham: Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Salah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah (Genesis 11:10-32). This period of time lasted for about 427 years. During this time, the lifespan of these ten generations was much shorter than the previous ten generations! The average lifespan of these ten fathers was 395 years.
THE CALL OF ABRAHAM TO THE LAW OF MOSES
Now, after the passing of ten generations from Noah to Abraham, we have God speaking to Abraham. Abraham lived down in a country called Persia. Today that country is called Iran. Today we have all kinds of trouble with Iran because it is the number one terrorist nation in the world! That is the country where Abraham was dwelling when God said, “Get out of your country and go to a land that I will show you.” Abraham did not quibble, quarrel, or question God. Abraham picked up all of his belongings, his family and he headed toward the land of Canaan—the Promised Land!
As they traveled to the promised land Abraham’s wife circumcised him and called him a bloody husband. Therefore God gave to him and his descendants the rite of circumcision. God placed a physical mark on all of Abraham’s children. It became the physical mark of the body of people called Israel.
Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
2 I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
We take notice from this promise to Abraham that eventually Abraham and his descendants will be,
- A great nation;
- Abraham will have a great name and be a blessing; and,
- Through Abraham’s descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed! This is a promise of the spiritual blessings that come to all of us by Jesus Christ the ultimate descendent of Abraham! And,
- To Abraham and his descendants God also made a great land promise. The land of Canaan was promised to him and his descendants: “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him” (Genesis 12:7).
This promise was later repeated to Abraham after his nephew Lot separated from him:
And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; 15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. 17 Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Genesis 13:14-17).
We are still speaking about the time period called patriarchy. How did God speak to Abraham? He spoke face-to-face and mouth-to-mouth. During all of this time we have studied so far, there was not a book with all of God’s communications written down for man to study. We have called this kind of communication patriarchy – father rule! The average lifespan of these patriarchs was only about 153 years. Therefore we have this time period of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and his 12 sons—the children of Israel.
THE LAW OF MOSES TO JESUS CHRIST
This brings us to the time that Jacob and about 75 people came down into Egypt to join Joseph—the Prime minister of Egypt until Moses receives the Law from Sinai! There was not a Bible until Moses gave the law to Israel and also the first five books of the Bible called the Pentateuch. Therefore we have this time period of 430 years from Israel entering Egypt until the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. We are not left in doubt as to this time because Paul reveals the exact time in his letter to the Galatians:
“And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect” (Galatians 3:17).
And this brings us then to the next great time period—the giving of the law to Moses from the top of shaking Mount Sinai until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ! Now through Moses God will communicate his will through a written document – the law of Moses. And this is where our leading character Moses was born and grew up to manhood. After many years of slavery, Moses is the man chosen by God to lead the children of Israel to the land of Canaan – the promised land. Moses and the children of Israel leave Egypt and in 50 days they end up at Mount Sinai. The country of Egypt is mentioned in the Bible more than any other country! It is at Mount Sinai that Moses receives the 10 Commandments from the omnipotent hand of God (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-22). There was not a Bible until Moses gave the law to Israel and also the first five books of the Bible called the Pentateuch.
While Moses is up on Mount Sinai the children of Israel worship a golden calf which was a sin against God. Many are punished for their waywardness! Now they have become a great nation of people, perhaps two or three million. They are instructed to build a movable tent of worship called the tabernacle. They are numbered, organized, and ready to march to the promised land! During this time God speaks to the people through the law of Moses and the prophets. This period from Moses until our Lord Jesus Christ covers about 1500 years. After this long period of time the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms were abrogated and nailed to the cross of Calvary. Paul tells us they were blotted out or wiped away at the cross: “having wiped out the [a]handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
TODAY GOD SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS SON JESUS CHRIST
Now we remind you of what our text said when we started this discourse.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3 Emphasis SGF).
Just before our Lord Jesus Christ ascended back to happen, he reminded his disciples that he had fulfilled all the words which were written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms! (Luke 24:44). And now he gives them their marching orders:
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
Be sure to listen to and heed all that our Lord Jesus Christ has said to us through his new covenant!
Copyright © 2023 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon January 29, 2023 at the heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142