Get Rid of Guilt
Dr. Jim Denison
My brother was the kickoff speaker for this fall’s Men’s Bible Study. Mark began with a mind trick I want to try on you today. It worked when he did it–let’s see if it works this morning.
Pick a number between one and ten. Double it. Add eight. Now divide that number in half. Subtract your original number. Do you have your final number?
Now match that number to the alphabet. If it is one, your letter is A; if it is two, your letter is B; and so on. Do you have your letter? Now think of a country which begins with that letter. Then think of an animal which begins with the second letter of that country’s name. Then think of a color which describes that animal.
The only problem is, there are no gray elephants in Denmark.
Our minds are God’s greatest gifts to us. Our intellectual capacity is the only attribute which enables our superiority on this planet. Other animals have far better eyesight, hearing, strength, stamina, and so on. Our minds are our best friends, or our worst enemies. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, KJV). What we think is what we become.
How do we keep our minds holy? What do we do when we don’t? No subject is more crucial to living in a way God can bless today. This morning we’ll investigate one of the most perplexing texts in the Bible, and find that it is actually one of the most urgent, practical, and relevant passages in all of God’s word.
Admit your need of grace
Our passage begins with one of the more confusing sentences in all the Bible: “When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Genesis 6:1-2). Who were these “sons of God” and “daughters of men”?
Some interpreters believe that the “sons of God” were angels (cf. Job 1:6; Psalm 29:1). But Jesus told us that angels “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Mark 12:25).
Some believe the “sons of God” were kings, but the Bible never makes this connection.
An interesting approach suggests that the “sons of God” were descendants of Seth, the godly child of Adam and Eve, and the “daughters of men” were descendants of the evil Cain. But the text doesn’t say this.
I think the clues we need are found in the text immediately surrounding our passage. Scripture intends to be clear, and was very clear to its original audience. So we must ask ourselves, what did they understand these words to mean?
Genesis 2 says that God formed man from the ground, and woman from man (vs. 7, 23). So calling men the “sons of God” and women the “daughters of men” was simply repeating what the readers of Genesis already knew, and what the rest of the Bible teaches as well.
The Bible refers to men as “sons of God” in nine different places (Deuteronomy 14:1, 32:5, Psalm 73:15, Isaiah 43:6-7, Hosea 1:10, 11:1, Luke 3:38, 1 John 3:1-2, 10). The text here seems simply to refer to men and women. And nothing in these verses ties these “sons of God and daughters of men” specifically to the flood which follows. They were simply populating the earth as God had commanded them (Genesis 1:28).
Now we come to another confusing reference: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown” (v. 4).
They are among the children produced by the “sons of God and daughters of men,” but nothing in the text ties them specifically to the coming Flood. They are simply figures in the biblical narrative.
So we have “sons of God and daughters of men,” probably men and women who are marrying and having children. Among them were mighty warriors and heroes in the ancient Near East. Perhaps you’re wondering how any of this could be urgent, practical, and relevant, how it could apply to our lives today. Let’s read on.
As our text proceeds, we move quickly from confusion to clarity, from ancient history to life today. Verse 5 comes home: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”
God reads our minds and knows our thoughts. He knows how sinful they can be. He knows that we don’t put our thoughts into action because of legal restraints and fear of being caught. But he knows what we would do if we could. Think about your thoughts for a moment, and you’ll see what God sees every moment of every day.
When Mark spoke to the Men’s Bible Study on the subject of our thoughts, he asked this sobering question: if you could project on a screen what has been in your mind the last 24 hours, what would we see? How embarrassed and ashamed would you be? That’s what God sees every moment of every day.
Such sin “grieves” the Lord and fills his heart with pain (v. 6). He is holy and cannot countenance or condone our sin. He must bring it to judgment, as he did with the Flood.
But now the good news dawns on the black horizon: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 8).
He “found” it–he didn’t earn it. He found “favor”–the Hebrew word means “to bend or stoop,” and describes the condescending and unmerited favor of a superior for an inferior. This is the Old Testament’s primary word for grace; this text is its first use in all of Scripture.
Through Noah, God extended this favor to the rest of mankind, as Noah warned the race of the coming judgment and Flood. Finally God had to judge humanity, after mankind refused his grace and salvation. But only after he had given them every chance to be saved.