The Psychology of Infancy

but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14 ESV)

I do not remember absolutely everything about my memories as a child, but the ones I do remember, I remember how selfish I was at the time, especially around other people’s birthdays.  I was so self-centered that even celebrating other people’s birthdays was difficult for me at the time.  I was not able to imagine in my childish mind the ability to give honor and glory to someone other than myself.  I was so used to having things my way. Now thankfully, I outgrew some of those selfish tendencies and learned to consider the interests of others before those of my own.

Saint Augustine gives  a similar thought: “Hence at that time I did reprehensible things, but because I could not understand why anyone should blame me, neither custom nor reason allowed me to be blamed.  As we grow up, we root out such things and throw them aside.” It is interesting to consider that we are not born with manners; we have to learn them instead.  From observing other infants and reflecting on the memories of my own infancy, I can see how this is generally the case.  Such observations rather confirm to me of how Adam’s sin transfers itself into the blueprint of humanity from his generation onward.

So before children can even come to a better understanding of themselves, and hopefully come to a saving knowledge of their Lord and Savior, they ought to be placed under the wise and compassionate care of guardians who will help restrain their inclination to rebel and disobey.

Augustine said this: “But even then were these things good: to try to get by crying even what would be harmful if it were given to me, to be bitterly resentful at freemen, elders, my parents, and many other prudent people who would not indulge my whims, when I struck at them and tried to hurt them as far as I could because they did not obey orders that would be obeyed only to my harm?”

In His mercy, God has generally placed as our guardians people like our elders, parents, and many other prudent people to watch over us in our developmental years.  When prudent guardians are lacking, or existing guardians are incompetent, it is more evident to see children being dominated by their indwelling sin.

There is a mercy when people do not always indulge our whims, especially should those whims lead to our harm in one way or another.  Even when we as children may not have been able to understand why our orders or our whims were not obeyed by our guardians at the time, our ignorance does not negate our guardians’ wisdom in denying us our requests at times.

From this example of childcare, I better appreciate God’s wisdom in commending believers to adopt a childlike stance towards Him.  No matter how old we get, even as we grow to become more independent of our parents and other guardians, we will never outgrow our need to depend on God Himself.  There is a sense in which we do not quite outgrow those selfish tendencies of our childhood years, and in fact our culture can at times indulge us too much in our adult years with its emphasis on a consumer, materialist, and individualist attitude.

In the midst of a culture that says “You should be yourself,” and “You should listen to your heart,”when the heart itself is a horrible guide for meaning, purpose, and direction, God calls us to look to Him as our wise and compassionate guardian, the perfect example that our guardians in our childhood years did their best to imitate.

The Messiah in Psalm 2

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”
(Psalm 2:1-3 ESV)

The above passage tells of how several kings of Gentile peoples who are vassals of the Davidic king propose a revolt to throw off Israelite rule.  The scene depicted above echoes of how Adam and Eve rebelled against God, or how the people once gathered together to build the Tower of Babel. For the Gentiles to rebel against the Davidic heir is to rebel against the Lord who installed him.  It is also to cut themselves off from their only hope of knowing the one true God, the very God who created them and seeks to redeem them.

The early Christians in Jerusalem understood the above passage as representing how Jews and Gentiles gathered together against Jesus, the Lord’s Anointed, and through Herod and Pontius Pilate, crucified the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:25-28). In so doing, the crucifixion of Jesus thus represents the ultimate example of how people refuse to submit to the lordship of Christ, which is essentially refusing to submit to God as our rightful King. 

Thus from this small analysis, we can understand sin as refusing to submit to the authority of God, an authority which now manifests itself in our time as the supreme lordship of Jesus Christ. In other words, refusing to accept Jesus as Lord is tantamount to refusing God’s rightful rule over us.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
(Psalm 2:4-9)

Even though people have conspired together against His Anointed, God is not in the least bit worried about the situation.  He will humble them just as He did in the Tower of Babel episode.  His purposes and His plans shall stand firm. Jesus shall return someday to reign in Zion and the nations have already been made His heritage and the ends of the earth His possession, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

The death of Jesus did not signal the end of God’s purposes for the world, but rather it was the glorious fulfillment of a plan to renew the creation back to God’s original design. Jesus did not stay dead, but rose victoriously from the grave. In rising from the grave, Jesus entered His Davidic rule over the nations.

There is a sense in which legally speaking, Jesus is already ruling over the nations, but the reality has not yet caught up with the decree that has been made.  The mission of the church is to live under Jesus’ reign, provide a watching world a glimpse of this new reality, and invite them to join us.

As the apostle Paul would later put it in his letters to the Romans:

…the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,  concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh  and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (Romans 1:1-5)

Sadly there will be people who still reject the rightful rule of Jesus over their lives and so warrant God’s righteous wrath against their continuing sin and rebellion against Him.

The Psalm concludes with an invitation to take refuge in the Son lest they endure His wrath against their rebellion in verses 10 to 12:

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

So whenever Christians talk about accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, this psalm certainly helps provide a concrete picture of what that entails.

Jesus is our rightful ruler, and to Him belongs the obedience of the peoples.
Those who continue their stubborn rebellion against Him since the days of Adam and Eve will reap the due consequences for their treason, unless they repent of their sins and take refuge in Him by believing in His life, death, and resurrection on their behalf and live in the light of His reign.

Curse of Canaan

“Cursed be Canaan;
    a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
(Genesis 9:25 ESV)

In past centuries, people who have abused the Bible have appealed to this passage to justify the enslavement of African people, resulting in grievous abuse, injustice, and inhumanity to people created in the image of God.

Yet when Noah cursed his son Canaan, which focuses on his being a servant, the curse anticipated the time when judgment would fall on the Canaanites.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. (Deut 7:1-3)

Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed.  And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. (Gen. 10:15-19)

This, coupled with the fact that the curse falls on Canaan alone and not on Ham’s other children (who settled in northern Africa), shows how illegitimate it was to use this text to justify enslaving African people.

Also note how not all of Canaan’s children are included in the tribes that God listed for destruction. Yet even for those tribes that are listed, we know from the example of Rahab and the Gibeonites that God did not show indiscriminate judgment on the people.  In all honesty, the judgment of the Canaanites might be seen as a microcosm of the global flood that God unleashed on the ungodly.

Just as He spared Noah and his household for their faithfulness, but punished the rest of the world with a flood, so too does He spare Rahab and her household and the Gibeonites for showing faith in Him, but punished the rest of the inhabitants of Canaan through the agency of Israel.

Also the fact that Rahab can be found in Jesus’ lineage (Matthew 1:5) provides an interesting twist on the idea of the Curse of Canaan.  The fact that Rahab, a Canaanite, is found in the Redeemer’s lineage rather implies God’s desire that blessings and not curses have the final word for His people.  Also God’s people are not exclusively Jewish but rather include people groups of the whole world, as represented by the inclusion of Rahab.

Noah placed a curse on Canaan, but it is partly through Canaan that the Messiah came and the Messiah comes to reverse the curse that was placed on Canaan, and ultimately the curse that was placed on the whole world because of Adam’s sin.

So the way I see the curse of Canaan is that it provides a particular picture of the general curse on the creation, and thus provides a backdrop behind how Jesus the Messiah comes to reverse the curse that fell on both the Canaanites and the created order.

Just as Adam’s sin led to a curse on the whole creation,
so too does Ham’s sin led to a curse on Canaan, and
Jesus as the descendant of both
comes to redeem both of them to bring blessings to the nations.

Noah

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:7 ESV)

When God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:20)

If he [God] did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:5)

In the days of Noah, the “wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) In fact, the “earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11)

God as humanity’s universal Judge must destroy the people He has created for their immoral behavior.  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD, and in preparation for the judgment to come, builds an ark for the saving of his household. For approximately 100 years, Noah likely preached a message of repentance to his peers. Sadly it is likely that they did not heed his message, and so perished in their iniquities.

Just as there was a judgment on the world of the ungodly in Noah’s day so will there be another global judgment on the ungodly when Christ returns with His holy angels. For Jesus said:

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37-39)

The apostle Peter puts the matter this way:

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:5-7)

The world is still as corrupt as it was in the days of Noah.  The problem back then as it is now is that sin corrupted human nature and thus left us with an inclination towards evil. We all deserve to be punished just as the people of Noah’s days were punished by a global flood. However, the significant difference between now and then is that now we have an opportunity to let God renew our human nature.  This is done by recognizing the things that God calls sin as sin, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection on our behalf for our salvation, and performing actions in light of His victory.

We know from Noah’s case, that God is certainly capable of protecting those who take refuge in Him.  Noah had his ark, but we in the present day have the Lord Jesus Christ.
However just as people who rejected Noah’s ark perished in water, people who reject Christ as Lord and Savior will perish by fire either at their death or at His second coming.

When Christians preach the good news of the gospel to others, it is with this context of judgment, sin, and redemption that we must bear in mind.  With regards to sexuality, gender, and marriage, people are masquerading things that God considers sin as being under the protection of civil rights.

The case might be likened to people misdiagnosing a disease that leads to death as being non-existent or non-harmful.  The spiritual reality is that the things concerning our sexuality constitute things that warrant God’s judgment should we disregard His standards regarding them.  But in light of the judgment that we deserve for slighting our Creator, God still mercifully offers a means of salvation for those who are willing to take Him up on His offer.

If there is a problem that is properly diagnosed, there are also appropriate treatments and solutions that follow.  Such is the case for sexual sins.  The sooner that people come to realize the reality of their spiritual situation, the sooner they can come to realize that there can be salvation found in the name of Jesus Christ.

Lessons from Fallen Angels

The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. (Genesis 6:2 ESV)

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 ESV)

The parallels between these two verses is interesting to note, especially with the same cue words: saw, attractive/good, and took.

In both cases, something good in God’s creation is used in disobedience and sinful rebellion against God, with tragic consequences.

Such is the definition of idolatry.  God certainly has given us things to enjoy, but He also gives us constraining guidelines to maximize our enjoyment of them.  Should we go outside of His proper boundaries for enjoying His creation, the results can be disastrous.

Case in point: celebrating our sexuality.  It is certain that our Creator made us sexual creatures, and by no means should we disregard this reality.  However instead of giving ourselves over to society’s definition of sexuality as it promotes same-sex marriage, gender dysphoria, and pornography, we are to celebrate monogamous heterosexual marriage as God intended (or singleness rooted and grounded in love for God). The alternatives tend to reveal a discontentment with the way God ordered things.

God is not a kill-joy as some people would have Him to be, but rather He intends that we enjoy His gifts within certain guidelines so our affections towards them do not tend to destructive ends. For example, money is not an inherently bad thing to pursue, but the love of money can be a problem as such greed can lead to self-justifying behavior as taking shortcuts and other shady business practices to gain more profit at the expense of others.

All of this is to say that, yes, the creation is beautiful and deserves admiration, but if it starts to eclipse the beauty and glory of our Creator and His ways, then we have a problem.

I have heard of the interpretation where the “sons of God” refer to fallen angels, and if this interpretation is true, it would give further evidence about the importance of respecting proper boundaries in the world that God ordered.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; (2 Peter 2:4 ESV)

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day (Jude 6 ESV)

From these two verses, one could come to the conclusion that angels sinned when they did not stay within their proper boundaries, and in so doing somehow brought disastrous consequences and so deserved punishment for their transgressions.

Personally, I am inclined to believe that the “fallen angel” interpretation holds true, and so demonstrates how the serpent, or Satan, is attempting to sabotage the Messianic lineage after God promised that the Messiah would come from Eve. It also demonstrates in vivid detail of how Satan hijacks human sexuality in an attempt to thwart God’s redemptive purposes for His people and His creation.

Although we may not have fallen angels performing such sexual perverseness, Satan is still up to his old tricks with regards to human sexuality as it appears that now he is attempting to deceive the whole world in rejecting our Creator’s standards for marriage and sex differences.

From analyzing the aforementioned texts, I have come to appreciate better of the danger of idolatry and the importance of respecting God’s commandments. Keeping His commandments brings life and blessings, while disregarding them leads to death and destruction.

Enoch

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24 ESV)

Enoch’s walk with God makes him an early example of faith, and his being taken by God without dying anticipates the eternal resurrection life that Christ gives.

Here is how the author of Hebrews puts it:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6 ESV)

In addition to living a life of faith that pleased God, Enoch appears to have made a prophecy concerning the wickedness of the people in his own generation:

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14-15 ESV)

After Adam and Eve rebelled against God, sin entered the created order and humanity’s heart became wicked internally.  The murder of Abel by Cain is the first recorded murder in Scripture. However even in the midst of such wicked and perverse generations, there was still hope that people like Enoch could live godly lives and escape the penalty of sin, which is death.

The faith that Enoch had was one where he rejoiced in God and denounced the evil ways of his peers especially as they progressively turned away from God.

Such a principle still holds true in our time just as it did in Enoch’s time.

Looking at Enoch’s example, it appears that faith can be understood as enjoying the person of God Himself, and sin is when we reject His person in pursuit of lesser pleasures.

 

Cain and Abel

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

In this tale of two brothers, one might see that the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman already plays itself out almost as soon as the prophecy has been told.

They both offer sacrifices to the LORD where Cain gives an offering of the fruit of the ground, while Abel gives of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. However the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.

Instead of taking responsibility for the results of his offering and accepting the LORD’s advice for him to do well and rule over his sin, Cain lets himself be mastered by sin and in jealousy kills his own brother.

Cain’s failure to rule over sin is similar to how his parents Adam and Eve failed to rule over the serpent and so introduced sin, pain, suffering, disease, and death into the world.

The apostle John, son of Zebedee, has this to say about the episode:

“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12 ESV)

Of course, what John says in his first epistle, he says similarly in his Gospel:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20 ESV)

Abel was a type of Christ, as his deeds were righteous and so exposed his brother’s deeds as evil.  Instead of repenting of his evil and turning to God, Cain loved his sin and so murdered his brother so his works would no longer be exposed.

Likewise, when Jesus Christ comes into the world, He exposes the world’s deeds as evil and loving the darkness rather than the light, the world crucified the Lord Jesus.

It is said that “by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4 ESV)

Abel is the first righteous man recorded to shed his blood, and he anticipated the day when the Lord Jesus would become “the mediator of a new covenant, and to [His] sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24 ESV)

Abel’s and Christ’s death at the hands of wicked sinners demonstrates how followers of Christ will too suffer persecution and mistreatment at the hands of those who loved their sins more than righteousness. But we have hope that because Christ lives again, we know that our faith in Christ will outlive the wickedness of sin.  In other words, the supremacy of Christ will have the last word, not sin and death.

I also find it interesting to note that where Abel’s blood caused the ground to be cursed for Cain, the blood of Christ brings blessing to the whole world. Another way to look at it is that where Abel’s blood alienates man from nature, Christ’s blood brings reconciliation. Here are some relevant verses for comparison.

On Abel:

And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. (Genesis 4:11-12)

On Christ:

Through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:20)

Even though Cain callously murders his own brother, the LORD still shows grace towards him, making him an example of how our God displays his perfect patience towards sinners in the hope that they would be reconciled to Him.

Nevertheless, Cain and his descendants fall deeper and deeper into sin, (especially since they go away from the presence of the LORD), where one named Lamech demonstrates no regard for the lives of others or respect for the principle of monogamy.  Lamech kills a young man just for striking him and takes two wives for himself.

Yet an interesting connection to make is when one examines the words of Lamech and the words of Christ.

Lamech says: “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:24 ESV)

Christ says when answering how often one should forgive a brother: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22 ESV)

It is hard to miss the connection being made here, especially with the heightened contrasts of revenge versus forgiveness.  It is as if when the Lord Jesus made the response that He did, He was giving a redemptive transformation of the revenge formula that Lamech articulated.

From Genesis chapter 4 then, some of the following observations can be made:
-when people live according to God’s ways, they will invite negative responses from those who do not, whether it ranges from being shunned to being murdered.
-God’s people ought to be characterized by love, not hate
-we seek to preserve people’s life by pointing them to Christ, not allowing them to perish.
-recognize that where our sins bring alienation, the cross of Christ can bring reconciliation.
-forsake revenge and pursue forgiveness.