The 400 meter relay is typically one of the most anticipated events of a track meet and the powers-that-be usually save it for last. Anticipation grows throughout the track event as the competitors approach this exciting and climactic race.
The time finally arrives and the starter fires his pistol into the air and the first runner of the four leg race is off. The crowd is on their feet as the opening runners burst from the starting grid and quickly approach the first hand off. Everyone holds their breath as they watch their team pass the baton from the first runner to the second, and then something happens…the spectators start sitting down. Anyone who has been to a track event knows the second leg of any relay is the most boring. The first leg has the excitement of the start, the third leg builds anticipation to the finish, and then the fourth leg is long awaited crowning finish. The second leg is just that spot in the race where nothing is really happening.
But, here’s the thing. A trip, a fall, or a drop of the baton in the second leg would be just as catastrophic to the final result as any disaster on any of the other three legs. Even without the attached emotion, the second leg of a relay is every bit as important and vital to the outcome as any other part of the race.
What we need to sift through today (and perhaps next week) is the second leg of the relay. Strong emotions likely won’t be pried from the soul today but our exploration of the Word will set the table for everything else in this study. If God dropped the baton in the second leg of the relay there is no Gethsemane, no Bethlehem, no Calvary, no blood sacrifice, no resurrection, and no atonement for sin. You would stand before a holy God and the basis of your justification would be on the good things you have done, and you would be rejected. I hope that you will journey with me through this integral second leg of the relay.
Genesis 11 by Way of Hebrews 1
For today’s study we are headed for Genesis 11 but we need to first make a quick stop in Hebrews 1. Fallen man views the world and it’s events as just occurring. They see events taking place with no master design or plan to it. The best they can do is make guesses at what is taking place.
Fallen humanity may believe in the true God but just believing is not the same as receiving Him for the forgiveness of sin. The book of James says that demons believe and tremble so there has to be a sense of reception of what God has offered and the transference of your guilt to His innocence.
As a baby Christian I used to read Genesis as nothing more than an ancient history book. I did not see the much bigger picture plan unfolding on these pages. Every event carries with it significant meaning. Nothing in Genesis happened just for the sake of happening.
God could have chosen to give us every bit of revelation he wanted us to have through Adam in one session. Instead, He chose to give it in many different portions, not all at once, and in many different ways. Why did He choose this method? Because He’s God and He can do what He wants to. He is not under any obligation to humanity in any way whatsoever.
In Hebrews 1.3 the author writes,
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the Word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Unlike other uses of the word uphold, which mean to bear all things on His back, this usage of the word uphold conveys that He’s bringing things to the culmination of His own purpose. There is no such thing as an event outside of the sovereignty of God. It’s not just that He knows everything, but that He’s in the process of bringing all things into His fullness. He always has been, since the beginning.
What we read on the pages of the Old Testament are not just random events taking place. They are events that set the stage for the person and work of Jesus Christ. They set the stage for His First Coming, and His Second Coming. Nothing happens in the Old Testament that doesn’t interweave into what Jesus will ultimately accomplish.
This is the predetermined plan of God. There is no plan B or plan C (Acts 2.23).
The Scattering at the Tower of Babel
In Genesis 3.15 God promised One who would crush the head of the serpent. He did not say who that would be or when that would be. They didn’t understand at the time His name was Jesus.
When we come to Genesis 11 the entire earth speaks the same language. Think about how convenient that would be. Think about the amount of time spent trying to bridge language gaps. Linguists have the ability to trace languages backwards to their origins and every one I’ve spoken with say there is a time when the world spoke one language. Imagine that…
Let’s check in on the world in Genesis 11,
It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11.2-4)
Let’s be honest…there was never a concern in heaven that they might make it to heaven. We know the oxygen problems that arise at just a mile off the earth. These people had no idea what they were doing and not a clue about the highest heaven.
What’s important about this is that God is sovereign and He’s getting ready to work. The people were scared God would scatter them across the face of the earth, and that’s exactly what God did (Genesis 11.8).
So this was a time when the entire world spoke the same language and they all wanted to keep things exactly as they were. Look what happens:
The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.
This must have been some scene. They have no explanation for this whatsoever. They came in speaking one language and left speaking a language only God understood on that one day. This was a miracle of God. Notice He doesn’t ask for permission. He doesn’t ask if they think it’s a good idea.
They named it Babel (Genesis 11.9), which would eventually become Babylon, because of the confusion set in there. For the first time in their life they did not understand what someone else was saying. Not only does God confuse the languages but He also scatters the people, and that’s vitally important. They said they wanted to be one–God says not yet. That isn’t to take place until the book of Revelation. When the antichrist arrives, they’ll actually get what they wanted thousands of years before.
Genesis chapter 11 is not just that the languages were confused or that people were dispersed. Genesis 11 is where nations begin, and one very important nation is born from this confusion.
From a Jewish way of thinking there were two types of people–there were the Jews and there were the Gentiles. This is where the Gentiles start. If you’re a Gentile, you’re looking at your ancestry in Genesis 11.
This is also where an essential man is introduced–Abram. God narrows the seed lineage down significantly at this point in history.
Why is this significant? We saw in Genesis 9 God made a covenant with every living thing in the world that He would not destroy it again with water. Now, here in Genesis 12 and following, God is getting ready to make a covenant with a specific man and it’s called the Abrahamic Covenant because it’s made with Abraham and all of his descendants.
Looking Forward to Genesis 12
In Genesis chapter 12 the word covenant does not occur but it tells a little about where we’re headed in the coming weeks. I want you to notice the future tenses that are used throughout.
Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
The families of the earth were just recorded in Genesis 11. The Abrahamic Covenant is crucial to what Jesus will accomplish at Calvary. These promises directly relate to your salvation. If He does not keep His Word, you’re not saved. If He drops the baton at any time with this, we’re done.