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Gen 10-11: The Plans of Man and the Plan of God Print E-mail
Monday, 12 December 2005

Derek Webb writes in one of my favorite songs, ďI know the plans that You have for me, and You canít plan the ends and not plan the means.Ē 1  In the song, Webb is dealing with his personal struggle of wanting a wife, a struggle I knew well before my relationship with Glenna.  This line is taken from the end of the song where he is coming to the conclusion that he should trust in God.  Why?  Because God has a plan, which He has revealed in Scripture.  And not only does He have a plan, but Scripture also teaches us that God is intimately involved in carrying out that very plan.  Thus, as Webb says, God has planned the end and the means by which the end will be accomplished.  The means refer to everything that happens, which God uses to bring about His planned purposes.

Think of it this way, in keeping with the song.  God had a plan for Glenna and me to be married.  Thus, He orchestrated the events in our lives to bring us together.  Not only did He plan for us to be married, but He planned all the struggles, difficulties, details, and events that would lead to us saying ĎI doí on July 26th, 2003.  In this way, God plans the ends and the means by which the ends will be accomplished.

As we have been moving through the book of Genesis, we have seen that God has a plan for humanity.  Granted, at this point in the text, the plan has not been fully revealed, but we have seen some of it.  For example, as we saw with Adam and Eve and Noah and his sons after the flood, God has a plan to preserve a people who will be faithful to him and fruitful throughout the earth.  We also saw in Godís judgment against the Serpent, Godís plan to crush the head of the Serpent by the seed of the woman.  Ultimately, all these plans of God are simply part of Godís grand plan to fill the earth with His glory by redeeming a people to call His own.  This plan will become clearer as the pages of Scripture unfold.  What we see in Genesis are the beginning moves of Godís plan.

And the great hope is this: God has not only planned the end of redeeming a people who will fill the earth with His glory, He has planned the means by which He will accomplish such an end.  Even in our passage this morning, we see God intimately using means to accomplish His plan.  In this, we learn much of Godís plan.  I want us to look at what we learn from each section this morning.

In the first section we learn that Godís plan includes the nations (Genesis 10:1-32).

Genesis 10 has been referred to as the ĎTable of Nations.í  In this chapter, we are told of the sons of Noah and of the seventy nations that came from them.  Again, all of humanity, save Noah and his family were killed at the flood, thus, Moses is showing us how the earth was once again populated.  We can say with all of humanity this morning that we are sons and daughters of Noah and Adam.  Thus, we see Godís grace and blessing towards humanity in allowing life to continue through the descendents of Noahís sons.

Let me say just a word about each sonís descendants.  In verses 2-5 we read of the descendents of Japheth.  In verse 5, Moses tells us that these are the people of the coastlands.  Of course at this point, this might not mean much to us, but look at Noahís blessing to Japheth in 9:27.  Many have struggled with how this blessing is fulfilled, but when Christ steps onto the scene it becomes clearer.  The Jews come from the line of Shem, as we will see in chapter 11.  Thus, Christ comes from the line of Shem.  Thus, when we read of the blessings of Christ, accomplished at the cross, being given to the nations, in a very real sense, the descendants of Japheth are dwelling in the tents of Shem.  Indeed, what an amazing prophecy that even we, as Gentile believers in Christ, play a part in fulfilling. 

Moses goes on to tell us of the descendants of Ham in verses 6-20.  If you remember from last week, it was Ham who Noah cursed for looking upon his nakedness.  Yet, it is actually Canaan who is cursed, which is Hamís son.  In the end, Moses is pointing out to his Israelite readers that the fiercest enemies of Israel are the descendents of Ham.  If you read the rest of the Old Testament, you will see that the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Canaanites, all descendents of Ham, are the nations that Israel will struggle with the most.  In fact, it is the Assyrians and the Babylonians who will ultimately bring the downfall of Israel.

In verses 21-31 we are told of the descendants of Shem.  As we mentioned above, it is through the line of Shem that Abraham, David, and ultimately Jesus will come (we will look at this more in a moment).  Yet, interestingly, in this particular genealogy, we are told of a different line.  In verse 25 we are told that Eber, where we get the name ĎHebrews,í has two sons: Peleg and Joktan.  It is through the line of Peleg that the Messiah will come, but here we are only told of Joktanís descendants.  Moses is preparing us for the next scene, which tells of the nations at Babel, and keeping us in suspense for the coming story of Abraham, which he will pick up in 11:10ff.

Through these different lines, we see that God has a plan for all the nations.  The rest of the Old and New Testaments will flesh out His plan.  All of these nations play a role in that plan.  Think about building a house.  You decide on certain house plans and then hire an engineer to draw up those plans and carry them out.  If you visit the site, you may not understand what is going on, but hopefully he has a plan of bringing it all together, with each of his actions playing a particular role in bringing the house together.  This is what we see in Godís plan for the nations.  Eventually, the particular parts will fit together and we will see the fulfillment of Godís great plan.  Yet, letís look now at the next section of our text.

In the second section we learn that God frustrates the plans of prideful man (11:1-9).

In chapter 11 we have the familiar story of the Tower of Babel.  Since Moses tells us of the separation of the nations in chapter 10 (see verses 18 and 25), it seems that this story actually takes place chronologically before chapter 10.  Letís look at it closer.

We see the sin of man in 11:1-4.  Look at verse 4 with me.  Here, we see that man has decided to make a name for himself.  The pride of man leads these nations to put their technology and ingenuity on display.  ĎWe will make a name for ourselves by building this tower.í  It sounds a lot like many of the plans of man throughout the history of the world.  Nations will rise up and conquer only then to be conquered themselves.  As the Scriptures teach, pride always comes before the fall.  Not only this, but their plans involve specific rebellion to Godís command to subdue the earth.  Their plan is to avoid being dispersed throughout the face of the earth.

Yet, God intervenes to frustrate their plans.  Look at verses 5-9.  God visits the city and brings a halt to their building by confusing their language.  In this way the Lord dispersed the people throughout the face of the earth.

Of course at this point we might ask the question why.  Why did God frustrate the plans of man?  I think for at leas two reasons.  First, God frustrated their plans because of manís pride and rebellion to the commands of God, as we have already noted.  Yet, not only this, God frustrated the plans of man because He has His own plan, which is for His glory and for their good.  Look at 12:3.  Godís plan is to bless all the nations through one nation.  In contrast to the Babel story, God promises Abram that He will make his name great.  This is fulfilled through Abramís son, Jesus Christ.  In fact, we see the curse of Babel reversed at Pentecost in Acts 2.  There we see the gospel being spoken in many tongues so as to bring the nations together in Jesus Christ.  Thus, even in the judgments of God we see the promise of future grace, as we have seen before.  This leads us to the last section of our passage this morning.

In the third section we learn that God has a plan to maintain the line of Christ (11:10-32).

Moses returns to the line of Shem in 11:10.  Instead of focusing on Eberís son, Joktan, he focuses on his other son, Peleg.  It is through Peleg that Abrahamís father, Terah, will be born.  Thus, as Luke tells in Luke 3, we know that line of Christ runs through Noahís son Shem.  In this way, God maintains the messianic line.

Moses is also preparing us for the story of Abraham, for the royal line of Shem runs through him.  We are introduced to Abramís family in verses 27-32.  We are told of his father, Terah, his brothers, Nahor and Haran, and of his nephew, Lot, who will come up again later in the book.  We are also told of his wife Sarai and of the important detail that she is unable to have children.  Moses gives us the setting of the story, which, as we will see, will also be important for the events of Abrahamís life.  All of this prepares us for the continuance of the messianic line through Abraham, who we will begin to look at next week.

Thus, our passage this morning reveals to us some of the beginning moves in Godís plan to redeem a people and fill the earth with His glory.  We see that God has not only planned the end, but He is also intimately involved with the means to bring about that end.  In fact, sitting where we sit in the story of Redemption, we know that the Lord has carried out His plan of sending a Redeemer because we can read of the life of Jesus Christ.  As we read the pages of the Old Testament, we see God preparing us for that moment.  One of my Old Testament professors said it this way: In the Old Testament, God is not so much concerned with nation building as He is with Redeemer sending.  The New Testament makes that clear.  God has indeed carried out His plan of sending a Redeemer to purchase a people back to Himself.

Not only this, but from the New Testament we know that God is continuing to carry out His plan in the lives of the Redeemed, or the Church.  If you have repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ, then you are a part of Godís plan to redeem a people for Himself.  As members of the universal Church, we are a part of Godís great plan to spread His glory throughout all the earth.  Thus, we must not get distracted from the task.  The means God is using to spread His glory to the nations is the faithful proclamation of the gospel and the faithful living out of the gospel by the Church.  Again, this is why we must stay true to the course, why we must humble ourselves to Godís word, why we must fight against sin in our own lives and in the lives of one another, and why we must preach the gospel to all who have not placed their faith in Christ.  We must realize that we stand in a long line of those who have been called by God to be His people and to proclaim His glory.

And what is our hope as we labor?  Simply the fact that the Bible teaches us that the Lord will complete His plan of redeeming a people to call His own.  What is your hope in fighting sin?  Simply, that Godís plan is to conform you to the image of His son.  What is our hope in fighting for the purity of the Church?  Simply, that Godís plan is to present her pure and spotless on that final day.  What is our hope in preaching the gospel to the nations and to our neighbors?  Simply, that Godís plan includes men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation.  Our hope this morning is that since we know and believe that God fulfilled His plan of sending a Redeemer, in the same way, we trust that He will fulfill His plan of completing our Redemption.  Just as we celebrate the first coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, so too we look expectantly for His return.  Until that day, may we, as Godís chosen means of fulfilling His purposes, forsake all plans that we might have and join ourselves with the great plan of God through faithful obedience to all of His commands.  Amen.

1 From the song ďTable for Two,Ē recorded on the album 40 Acres, 1999.

~ William Marshall ~

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