9-3-2016 WHERE ARE MY ROOTS?
The Family Tree
Where are my roots? Alex Haley with his 1976 epic novel “Roots” got much of America wondering exactly what were their roots. My mom and dad were apart by the time I was ten so I had to ask my parents separately to find out my heritage. No, I wasn’t prompted by the TV miniseries I was already in my thirties). So I asked years before that hit the small screen in 1977. However, my mom was easy. I had known my grandfather was Finnish (Finland) but during my inquiries, I discovered that my grandmother (his wife) was Swedish and their ancestry followed normal national lines. My dad was another story. I knew he had grown up in a corner of the country where Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky come together. Now when I asked him about our ancestry, his ‘knee kick’ response was “Heinz 57 variety”. As the years passed, I concluded that he was primarily German and English but he avowed that there were many nationalities intertwined over the centuries on his side of the family. In his later years he did come up with an English coat of arms for the family, but to be honest, I think the outfit he went through, once you paid your fee for discovery, they found you a coat of arms. BUT, I’m not talking about these ‘roots’. Well, not completely.
A couple of months ago I was doing the bible study at church and during the course I mentioned that if everyone thought about it, we are all (that is the world) descended from Noah. I was quickly challenged “No, we’re all descended from Adam. Adam was the first man!” And so he was.
Ten or twelve years ago Father had me do a project we called “The premise”. It was initially for my personal knowledge of who God is – Father, Son & Holy Ghost and how the Godhead is one God. Father also had me explore some basic concepts on heaven and hell, salvation and living for and through Christ Jesus. He also had me do an overview of many of the major religions and Christian denominations examining similarities and differences for both areas. Here He peaked my interest, on world religions, because I was surprised at how many things in common most of those ‘pagan’ religions had with Christianity. Since then, as I continued to read the bible, Father has been playing with my little pea-pickin’ brain. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that the primary difference between Christianity and other religions is “Jesus” and I picked up pretty quickly on this one (I amaze myself sometimes-do I need to add the “LOL” [laugh out loud]?).
Tuesday AM during my prayer session, Father took me on a little trip – through the ages (in review) from Adam to the present. No, I didn’t literally (bodily) tour the ages. No I didn’t translate into the spirt and take the trip. Instead, Father started replaying what He had been recording into my little brain over the years and connecting the dots, bible truths with various religion’s concepts. Over the years, He’s shown me connections but lately, He’s been pulling it together for me into a better understanding. That’s what I want to talk about now so perhaps (by the grace of God) we might come to a clearer understanding of our ‘roots’.
In the beginning, God made His created Son, Adam in His own likeness (Gen. 1:26-28) and his mate (Eve). God gave them freedom over the garden and the earth (Gen. 2). He gave them a task to perform, to keep or maintain the garden (Gen. 2:15) and only one commandment, “not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17)”. Until the fall we can see that God fellowshipped with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8-11), He walked in the garden with them (Gen. 3:8). Adam and Eve operated in love and trust in their relationship with God until they disobeyed Him and ate the forbidden fruit. God’s trust had been breached and He had to do what was right, put them out of the garden and separating them from Himself so they couldn’t live and eternal life of evil (Gen. 3:12-24) and separated them from the tree of life (v. 24).
Genesis chapters four and five give us the family of man. Adam and Eve brought forth Cain, who slew his brother Abel and we see God gave Eve a ‘replacement’ for Cain with Seth. The order in which everything happens is a bit obscure but we know man started calling upon the name of the Lord after Seth’s son Enos was born and that Adam and Eve had more sons and daughters (Gen. 5:4). In chapter five we see that Adam was one hundred thirty years old when Seth was born and Enos was born when Seth was one hundred five years old. Bear in mind that Cain and Abel were both born sometime before Adam reached that hundred thirty mark. My point is that man was out of the garden and populating the earth for nearly two hundred thirty-five years before they began to truly acknowledge God (Gen. 4:26)! They knew Him because Adam and Eve had an early relationship with Him and Cain pled his case for killing his brother before the Lord (Gen. 4:4-15). Up to this point the only “law” God gave man was to “not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge good and evil (Gen. 2:17), and they (Adam & Eve) couldn’t even do that.
As we continue reading Genesis chapter five, we see that there were men who sought after God. We have the brief account of Enoch (Gen 5:18-24) and we see that he walked with God, then he was not for God took him. As we read on, Enoch begat Methuselah and Methuselah begat Lamech and Lamech begat Noah. In Genesis Chapter five, the bible follows those who would seem to have had some sort of relationship with God from Adam to Noah (read chapter five) and were approaching one thousand years (965 following birth to birth from Adam’s fall to Noah by adding the years). Moses was yet to come so God was yet to give the ‘law’, as such, for man to go by. So what rules did man live by? By the time we hit Genesis chapter six we see God was beginning to regret creating man and was ready to destroy him – except Noah (and his family), who found grace in His sight (Gen. 6:1-8) and were given refuge in the ark when God brought the flood waters upon the earth (Gen. 7:6-24). For forty days and forty nights it rained and the fountains of the deep were opened up (Gen. 7:11-12) and the water as upon the face of the earth for a hundred and fifty days (Gen. 7:24) before any land even began to emerge.
Man was allowed to live by his own recognition of God and man’s thought became continually evil (Gen. 6:5), so that didn’t work out very well. In Romans 2:11-15 God tells us that those who have sinned without the law shall perish without the law and those who know the law shall be judged by the law. Paul also cites that when we do the things contained in the law, those things become a law to us because the works of the law are written in our hearts and our conscience confirms this (Romans 2:11-16). Nature itself declares God’s existence (read Psalms 19). So we may conclude that the men of faith before the law looked at nature and saw God and honored Him. Those who didn’t honor God were too blind to see. From many ‘primitive’ societies, we know that ‘family traditions’ were handed down orally from generation to generation and we might assume that this was true back in those days.
We know that Noah pleased God (Gen. 6:8). However, that didn’t stop God from destroying every living thing on earth (Gen. 7:21-22). So what happened to Noah? Who do you think was left to repopulate the earth? The animals after their own kind and Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives – eight souls. Because Noah found grace before God and as demonstrated when they set foot back on dry land worshipped Him (Gen. 8:20-21). We might conclude that his sons learned to do the same by following dad’s example and passed that tradition down through the generations. But the law still hadn’t been given so man still lived according to his own heart, what he though was right. There was no established code of conduct or law dictating how one should act. Anarchy? Spiritual anarchy, save where men were led by the Spirit of God. For truly man had rulers in those days and assuredly man could ‘get along’ as much as we do today. Man also had ‘religion’ but they weren’t seeking God as God, but rather as how they ‘saw’ God. God was relegated to an image as devised by man. So as time passed beyond Noah, we find man doing just like before the flood. Some saw God for who He is and others just couldn’t quite hold on to what they were taught as children and drifted away.
From Noah to Moses God still let man try to figure things out for himself. There are many variables on how much time elapsed between Noah and Moses, so depending on what you read, (the expert’s numbers and explanations don’t all agree) the parameters seem to be between @900 to @1500 years from Noah to Moses (maybe someone out there is burdened to do more research than I). There is also variance between the ‘experts’ as to when Moses actually lived putting the receipt of the “law” probably between somewhere between 1446 BC (most agree) to 1411 BC. Point is that God probably got tired of waiting for man to figure how to live so He decided to give them some guidance through Moses on the mount (Exod. 20:1-17) with the Ten Commandments. As we see in the Old Testament, Israel had problems here too. Even after the law some kings did well (for God) while others were so far off base, they probably asked the question “God, who?”
Finally God did what He promised Adam and Eve (speaking to the serpent) “Because you have done this (tempted my children causing them to fall) you are cursed above all creatures that walk the earth. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed it (her seed) shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:14-15). Note that the Hebrew word used in both cases is “shuwph” (Strong’s 7779) which means to break, bruise or cover. I think that history defines which definition fits which individual. And God kept His promise, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus to redeem us (Titus 2:14) approximately 1400 years after the law was given. With Jesus all we have to confess Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart that God indeed raised Him from the dead and we attain salvation (Romans 10:9).
But now we have another turn of events. We are no longer bound by the Law of Moses, but through Jesus we find ourselves bound by a greater law. The law of love (Romans 13:10). If we live in God’s love, then we are led by His Spirit whom He puts into our hearts (John 14:16-17). Now several things happen here: 1) The Spirit testifies of our salvation (Romans 8:16), 2) will lead us into all truth (John 16:13), 3) Gives us power (we need to live this life) and to be witnesses (for Jesus) (Acts 1:7) and 4) give us direct communication with the Father (Romans 8:26).
So what does all this have to do with my family “roots”? I’ve shared that my roots are found in English, Germanic, Finnish and Swedish heritages along with a few other nationalities tossed in to make it interesting. But, that is my natural family roots. I am also a member of the “family of God” which contains both natural and spiritual roots. In the natural I can claim Adam and Noah then the rest becomes obscure. Spiritually, my roots (heritage) goes directly back to Jesus AND the Father. Why because Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:16-21) and Jesus desires us to be one with the Father through Him.
Because everyone was eliminated before Noah (the flood), everyone who is alive today has roots going back to Noah. All of mankind in existence today goes directly back to Noah. Of course, because Noah’s roots go back to Adam, our do also, but there is only one descendant of Adam’s which any man can trace back to – Noah. Now, Lord help us if we try, and are able, to discover our roots as they branch out from Noah to now, or rather try to trace them back to Noah.
Now, my spiritual roots flow back through all those men of faith, who sought after and followed God. Men like the pastor who led me to Christ, the authors of books I have read which Father used to pen my understanding, those men who started the Pentecostal movement, those men who were instrumental in the Holiness movement, the Reformers of the 16th century, the apostles (like Paul), Jesus (obviously) and all those men of faith whom we read about all the way back to Adam, God’s first created child. AND, by the way, my spiritual roots go back beyond that! My spiritual Father knew me before I was born (Jeremiah 1:5). For He has ordered my steps (Psalms 37:23). I am ordained of Jesus (John 15:16) because I am His friend and I know that I am His friend because He share things with me (John 15:14-15). And I do as He asks because He abides in me and I in Him (at least I try) (John 15:1-11). My spiritual roots keep me striving to walk closer with my Lord and Savior and I’ve drawn from all these sources and resources to help me in my walk.
Yes, it is nice and sometimes can be very interesting to know our heritage, our roots. Yet, I must admit that I can’t go any further back than my grandparents (congratulations [and PTL] to those who have been able to go back centuries), but I CAN go back to the beginning of creation with my spiritual roots. In the beginning God (Gen. 1:1) and I know who my BIG brother is (Romans 8:29), Jesus, I know who many siblings, in my family tree, are or have been and I have crossed paths with many brothers and sisters over the years.
Can we all say “I know my roots”?