Day 106 – Conspiracy Theories, Part 1 – The Serpent
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made._He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1
The Wikipedia entry for “Conspiracy Theories” reports on so many that the editors had to place the various theories into twelve categories. There are conspiracy theories about the economy, espionage, race and religion, government policies, medicine, science and technology, sports, and more. Take just one of these areas, “Government policies and conflict” and you find theories about control of the administration of the city of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada by a British battalion since World War I; about the Illuminati, an 18th century secret society, being responsible for the French Revolution and other major world events; about 9/11 being cause by controlled explosions; about the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School being a staged ‘event’ performed by actors; about the existence of a “Deep State” – a government within the government, operating in various controlling ways in society; about FEMA building concentration camps; etc., etc. A conspiracy theory is defined as “the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of deceptive plots that are largely unknown to the general public” (www.dictionary.com) As such, these theories constitute lies, designed to lead people away from the truth about a situation.
In the Bible, Satan (the serpent) is introduced to us in Genesis as the creator of the first conspiracy theory. In this passage, Satan begins by questioning what Eve had heard from God: “Did God actually say you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” The serpent is sowing seeds of doubt. What had God actually said? The precise words of God to Adam were,,_“ 16 …You may surely eat_of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you_shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17-18) Eve correctly replied to the serpent by stating that the prohibition was for only one tree. Satan then questioned the last part of God’s commandment: “you shall surely die”. The serpent directly stated, “You shall not surely die” (3:4), then added an enticement of his own making: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (3:5)
Was there an element of truth in Satan’s lie? Yes. Adam and Eve did come to know good and evil. But such knowledge was not desirable. God wanted to spare them (and us) from evil. The consequences for Adam and Eve are made clear in the remainder of Genesis 3, and these consequences have been passed on to every generation since.
We face the same temptation today. Eve and Adam had a commandment from God which they disobeyed. I have many other commandments from God and often disobey. Like Eve, I am lured away from God’s standard with the thought that the thing prohibited to me but nevertheless now presented to me would be enjoyable. Yet, the truth is that acting upon a lie is never beneficial and is always destructive. Here’s what the ESV Study Bible note on Genesis 3:4-5 says about the consequences for Adam and Eve and subsequent humanity:
” …the serpent speaks half-truths, promising much but delivering little. Their eyes are indeed opened, and they come to know something, but it is only that they are naked. They know good and evil by experience, but their sense of guilt makes them afraid to meet God; they have become slaves to evil. And while they do not cease to exist physically, they are expelled from the garden-sanctuary and God’s presence. Cut off from the source of life and the tree of life, they are in the realm of the dead. What they experience outside of Eden is not life as God intended, but spiritual death.”
- Read Genesis 3.
- Think of some way you have disobeyed a commandment of God. How is that way not as God intended? In what way(s) did your choice deliver what you were looking for, and in what way(s) did it bring destruction, disappointment, death?
- Repent and ask God’s forgiveness for your disobedience.
- What untruths are you prone to believe? Why? In the future, how are you going to test the conspiracy theories that in some way attract you?
Day 107 – Conspiracy Theories, Part 2 – The Magicians
8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you,‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your_staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses_and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast_down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then_Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of_Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff,and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Exodus 7:8-13
This dramatic scene occurs near the beginning of Moses’ mission to lead the enslaved people of Israel out of Egypt and to freedom. God would use the staff that Aaron carried to accomplish miraculous signs, showing both the people of Israel and of Egypt that there is one God who has power over nature, a political empire, false religious practitioners, and more.
The staff was used in the first three and the last three of the ten plagues. Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers, who were also called magicians, copied the miraculous signs, but lost out to the staff of God when their staffs were consumed, when their “secret arts” could not copy the plagues of flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death of the firstborn. How did they copy the first three plagues (water to blood, frogs, and gnats)? Was it trickery or the work of satanic spirits or something else? We are not told. Modern-day magicians use hidden objects, slight-of-hand, distraction, unseen assistants, machinery, and so on. To make the Statue of Liberty disappear before a live TV audience in 1983, David Copperfield used a moving platform, loud music, a rigged radar device, and lights. His in-person audience was amazed. So, Pharaoh’s magicians accomplished significant deceptions, but in the end were no match for God working through His servants Moses and Aaron.
The magicians thought they could show Moses and Aaron to be perpetrating a hoax, but in reality, they and their secret arts were the hoaxes. They were denying reality and truth. Anyone who denies God’s power can offer only a false and insufficient display that is in itself the real act of conspiracy. The conspiracy theory on display in Exodus 7-9 says that ‘Our gods are as powerful as your God.’ Pharaoh believed he could bargain with God (even while he was insincere in his promise to let the people go. God saw through the lie, but Pharaoh ended up fooling himself when he tried to follow the nation of Israel across the parted Red Sea and, instead, met up with catastrophe (Exodus 14:21-31).
If you believe this conspiracy theory, you come to show yourself to be a fool. “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
- Read Exodus 7-14.
- What does lack of belief in God look like in the lives of people today?
- How do people substitute for a lack of belief in God? What do they try in place of God?
- Stewart Kabatebate uses Numbers 13-14 to identify six ways we fall into disbelief: by allowing circumstances to negatively affect our faith in God; by leaning on our own logic and reasoning instead of thinking according to God’s Word and promises; by not trusting God’s motives; by being rebellious and unteachable; by rejecting the goodness and perfection of God; and by allowing fear to govern our choices [see http://www.inspiredwalk.com/2067/6-ways-people-show-unbelief-towards-god ] Have any of these ways been found in your life?
Day 108 – Conspiracy Theories #3 – The Supernatural
He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ Luke 16:31
In all ages, including ours, perhaps the greatest conspiracy theory involves the denial of the supernatural. Humans seek natural explanations to events they find to be beyond them. For example, how did the world begin? Legends and myths, or scientific explanations such as natural selection? These are efforts to understand something and may be quite logical to current-day tests and observations. Or take the Flood of Noah’s day – is it simply a legend of an ancient civilization? Or the Red Sea crossing – was it a marsh and not a sea? Or the miracles of Jesus – were they recorded as symbolic lessons? Or even the resurrection – did Jesus really die or simply swooned into an unconscious state? Was the tomb cool enough to revive Him? Or, as the religious leaders fabricated, did Jesus’ disciples bribe the guards? Or, what of the teaching of Jesus’ second coming – is that a spiritual coming or a literal one?
What do these theories have in common? Explanations that contradict the Biblical accounts are denials of the supernatural. They are denials of God’s existence and/or God’s nature.
Jesus was not at all surprised by unbelief. In Luke 16:31 he said, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead?” Even the most supernatural of events – a resurrection – would not be enough to convince doubters of the truth of His teaching – for they would reject the resurrection as well. You would think that amazing, miraculous demonstrations would be convincing, but Jesus knew that the greatest of signs would be disbelieved: “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.’” (Jonah’s emergence from the great fish was a type of the resurrection to come – Matthew 12:38-39.)
To know God a person must accept His supernatural existence and character. Various generations have shown a tendency to accept manmade ‘gods’ while rejecting the true God. The “true God” is described in the following passage as great, true, powerful, wise, and understanding. “There is none like Him.” To believe otherwise is to fall prey to the greatest conspiracy theory of them all.
There is none like you, O Lord;
you are great, and your name is great in might.
7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you.
8 They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood!
9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
10 But the Lord is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
12 It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
13 When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses. (Jeremiah 10:6-13)
- Read and meditate on Jeremiah 10:6-13 (above).
- See also I Corinthians 15. Acceptance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is critical to becoming a Christian. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you arestill in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ haveperished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people_most to be pitied.” I Corinthians 15:17-19
- Why is it so difficult for people to accept the supernatural (while accepting human logic or reasoning)? Why do so many accept a form of the supernatural (luck, chance, demonic activity, the ‘gods’ of this or that), but avoid the true God?
Day 109 – Lessons from the Flood: Lesson 1, Preparation
“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.” I Peter 3:20.
The New Testament gives us four lessons to learn from the great flood of Noah’s day. The first of these is that God provides a time of preparation for all to come to Him.
How long did it take for Noah to build the ark? The ark was a very big vessel. It was 440 ft long (134 m.), by 72 ft. wide (22 m.) by 43 ft. high (13 m.). Some writers say it took 50-75 years for Noah to build, while others say it could have been done in only a few years if he contracted with labourers to do parts of the work. Either way, there was a period of time. The verse quoted above says that God was patient with the corrupt people of that time – remember that in Genesis 6:5, it is recorded, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Yet, in spite of this heart-breaking evil (“it grieved His heart”, Gen. 6:6), God gave them time to repent, namely the time it took for Noah to build the ark. We can imagine that people asked Noah why he was building a huge boat in a dry place, and Noah explained that judgment was coming and invited them to repent and join him and his family in safety. We read that “God’s patience waited” – but the people laughed Noah off and turned away. They abused the time of preparation.
Eventually, time ran out. God gave the observers one more week as Noah gathered the last of the animals on board. “For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” (Gen. 7:4) The invitation had been given, the boat had been built, the animals had been gathered, and the time of preparation came to an end. Only eight people (Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives) were on board – and it rained.
Peter declared in II Peter3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The present time is a time of proclamation and invitation, but no one should be presumptuous to think that God will not deliver on his warnings.
The time leading up to the Lord’s promised return should be seen as evidence of God’s patience or longsuffering. “Longsuffering” is a word found frequently in the Bible and used to speak of God’s patience with people who are slow to respond to His love.
– “4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience [i.e., longsuffering], not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead_you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
-“[God] endured with much patience [longsuffering] vessels of wrathprepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for_vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory… Romans 9:23-24
The web site www.GotQuestions.org explains the word this way:” The word longsuffering in the Bible is made up of two Greek words meaning “long” and “temper”; literally, “long-tempered.” To be longsuffering, then, is to have self-restraint when one is stirred to anger. A longsuffering person does not immediately retaliate or punish; rather, he has a “long fuse” and patiently forbears. Longsuffering is associated with mercy (1 Peter 3:20) and hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3),” and adds, “The ultimate example of God’s longsuffering is His waiting for individuals to respond in faith to Jesus Christ.” https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-longsuffering.html
Was the Flood of Noah’s day a judgment against those who participated in the offensive evil of those years? Yes. But its delay – the time it took to build the ark – was also an indicator of God’s mercy, grace, love, and patience. And the ark itself was a sign of God’s provision of salvation, available to all who would trust in Him.
- Read Genesis 6 and II Peter 3:9-13.
- If you are a believer, thank God for His patience in waiting for you to accept His provision of the Saviour, Jesus.
- If you have not believed, or are not sure whether or not you are a believer, how do you view the preparation period before the flood?
Day 110 – Lessons from the Flood: Lesson 2, Judgment
17 The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased andbore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed andincreased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountainsunder the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. Genesis 7:17-20
The second lesson from the great flood is that when judgment from God is due, it does come.
It is always a difficult thing to talk about God’s judgment. Why is there such a thing as judgment? In societies of all time, communities have practiced some sort of judgment. We have a multitude of laws today that carry some penalty when not obeyed. The penalty varies from a small fine or rebuke to life in prison or, in some countries, the death penalty. The idea of judgment is well accepted, though we may vary significantly in our view of how severe a penalty should be.
Of course, a legal judgment doesn’t just all of a sudden happen. It is preceded by an offence, followed by some sort of examination or trial, then a verdict. In a court it is common for the presiding judge to then schedule a day when the sentence will be pronounced. There may even be a gap from the time of sentencing to the beginning of a prison term or other penalty being enforced. Time, lots of time, precedes the carrying out of the judgment. Nonetheless, the day does arrive, changing everything.
Because judgment day will come, the Bible says that “today”, right now, is the day to make the most important choice of your life. In Luke 19 we read about Jesus’ encounter with the tax collector Zachhaeus. He was curious and Jesus acknowledged him and said, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” It goes on to report that this formerly greedy man took advantage of the opportunity and changed, to which the Lord declared, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Some others were given an invitation to follow Jesus and gave delaying answers, losing their opportunity (see Luke 9:57-62). Likewise, two thieves were hung on crosses with Jesus in between them, and that last day of invitation was accepted by one but rejected by the other. You cannot be sure that you will have an end-of-life opportunity, nor that you will say ‘yes’ to Jesus even then.
There was a time of preparation in Noah’s day, but that time came to an end with all but eight people not heeding the warning of coming judgment and of available deliverance. The day came with suddenness – even as the day that is future to us – the day of the Lord – will likewise come as a thief (II Peter 3:10; Matthew 24:42-44). That is why, in II Corinthians 6:2, Paul says, “Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
- Read all of II Peter 3.
- Two imperatives issue from the teaching that “today is the day” to be ready for Jesus’ return: (1) if you have not yet acknowledged your sin and need of salvation, today is the time to accept Him as Saviour; and (2) for those who have already trusted Him, it is the right time to live for Him and proclaim His invitation to others. Which imperative applies to you?
- We think of the Flood as a judgment of God. But what of the time leading up to it – the time it took to build the ark? That was a time of preparation that showed the compassionate patience of God. Thank Him for this patience.
Day 111 – Lessons from the Flood: Lesson 3, Rescue
“The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” II Peter 2:9
The third lesson from the flood is that God provides deliverance, or rescue, from the trials and consequence of sin.
In II Peter 2, Peter writes that God preserved Noah and seven others from the judgment of the Flood, and that He also rescued Lot from the judgment brought upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Then Peter concludes that these previous acts of deliverance are evidence that God knows how to rescue the godly of any era from the trials they face – particularly trials associated with living in a sinful, ungodly world.
What are these “trials” that Lot and Noah faced? The trials in this case were not the ordinary challenges of work, sickness, financial stress, and so on. In Noah’s case, the scriptures say that it was a time of corruption and violence (Genesis 6:11-12). In Lot’s case – using Peter’s words – it was an era of sensual conduct (especially, lustful, defiling passion) and lawless deeds (especially, the despising of authority – II Peter 2:7-10). These kinds of behaviours tormented “righteous Lot” and likely did the same to Noah who is described as a righteous and blameless man (Gen. 6:9). A righteous man or woman is disturbed by sinful conduct.
And the trials referred to brought on God’s judgment. It was judgment that was widespread – two prosperous cities and surrounding valleys in Lot’s case and the known (possibly, whole) world in Noah’s case. However, God rescued Noah and his family and Lot and his family. “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly” (II Peter 2:9).
The Bible is a story of love and rescue.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
I John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
II Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Daniel 6:27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”
Consider these words from Dr. Charles Stanley’s In Touch Ministries:
Every one of us is in need of rescue because we are all sinful and worthy of God’s eternal condemnation and punishment. No matter how hard we try, “there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Rom. 3:12). This means that we lack the ability to make ourselves acceptable to God. In other words, we’re eternally doomed unless God Himself intervenes on our behalf. And that is exactly what He did.
In order to rescue fallen humanity, God ordained a plan for mankind’s salvation before He even created the world. Since His attribute of justice could not be set aside, an acceptable substitute was chosen to bear the condemnation and punishment that sinners deserved. The only one qualified for this mission was His beloved Son, who took on human flesh and lived a life without sin.
The gift of forgiveness and reconciliation to God is free to all who will receive Jesus Christ and believe He made atonement on their behalf. There is no condemnation for those who take refuge in Him.
- Read Psalm 34.
- Do you sometimes feel the oppression of a sinful world? What are some examples of trials like the ones Noah and Lot experienced in their time.
- Have you ever thought of yourself as needing “rescue” from personal sin and alienation from God?
- If so, what have you done about it?
Day 112 – Lessons from the Flood, Part 4: Love and Peace
9 “This is like the days of Noah to me:
as I swore that the waters of Noah
should no more go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you,
and will not rebuke you.
10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:9-10
We have considered three lessons from the flood:
- God provides a time of preparation for all to come to Him
- When judgment from God is due, it does come.
- God provides deliverance, or rescue, from the trials and consequence of sin.
The fourth lesson, found in Isaiah 54:10, is that God’s love will never depart and His peace will never be removed.
We need to ask some questions about this statement: What does it mean? For whom is the promise intended? How do we know it to be true?
The flood began on the 17th day of the second month with rains that lasted 40 days. It was followed by 150 days of abatement until the ark rested on Mount Ararat, then another 150 days for the land to dry and 70 days more before Noah left the Ark – a total of 370 days. Two very important things happened at that point: (1) Noah made an altar and offered burnt offerings (Genesis 8:20) – no doubt an offering of thanksgiving for deliverance; and (2) God made a promise – no universal flood again (Gen. 8:21- 9:11). God also invited Noah and his descendants into a covenant relationship. This gave humankind certain obligations while promising God’s lasting love and peace. Human beings were to multiply; were to exercise dominion over the animals and birds, which they could now eat (but not the blood of these animals); and were to value human life to the extent that the taking of a life was subject to supreme punishment (Gen. 9:1-10). God, in turn, would never send another flood to destroy the earth.
Isaiah applied the lessons of the flood to his time. Isaiah lived in a difficult time when the nation Israel was facing the coming onslaught of Assyria, and, later, of Babylon. In chapter 54, Isaiah is comforting the people with assurances of the compassionate God’s eventual delivery from these captivities. God would establish steadfast love and a covenant of peace (54:10). He uses the flood to deliver a message of comfort to his people years later. “This is like the days of Noah,” he writes, when God ended the flood. To the afflicted and storm-tossed of his own day, the prophet gives a message of assurance for their future with God.
The message is for those who will be taught of the Lord (Isaiah 54:13), for those who choose righteousness over strife (Isaiah 54:14), and for those who are servants of the Lord (Isaiah 54:17). Anyone can become part of this group who enjoy the steadfast love and peace of God. “Come, everyone who thirsts,” is the invitation of Isaiah 55:1. God makes this covenant with any who “hear” (55:3) and “seek the Lord” and call upon Him (55:6), to all who forsake their wicked ways and return to the Lord (55:7).
How do we know the lesson is true? First, after the flood, God pointed to the rainbow and said it would now be a sign that He means what He says in Genesis 9:12-17. Interestingly, I saw a rainbow this morning when I took our dog for his daily walk. Some light rain was falling from the cloud overhead while to the east the sky was clear and the sun was shining. There, to the northwest was a rainbow. The rainbow is a symbol of the covenant agreement God made. Troubles returned for Noah’s descendants, including the troubles Isaiah foresaw. But to God, even the captivities they suffered from Assyria and Babylon were “for a brief moment” (Isaiah 54:7). The 370 days in the ark, and the 70 years in Babylon, did not seem brief to the people, but in comparison to God’s everlasting love and peace they were short indeed. So, too, are our sufferings compared to the glory to come for those who have accepted God’s provision of forgiveness and eternal life through Christ.
- Read Genesis 8:13-22 and 9:1-17.
- Which of the four lessons from the flood speaks most meaningfully to you right now?
- All of us experience trials throughout our lifetime. In yours, are you also thinking of the compassionate promises of God to be with you and to deliver you?
- Can you recall an experience of God’s peace during some particularly difficult time in your life?
- Notice how the terrible judgment of the flood was surrounded by lessons of preparation and peace. God is a merciful God.