Bible Readings for January 7th

Genesis 7 | Matthew 7 | Ezra 7 | Acts 7

In the wake of the intermingling of the sons of God (the godly line of Seth) and the daughters of man (the wicked line of Cain) that we looked at yesterday in Genesis 6, God makes a promise: “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years” (Gen. 6:3). What does this mean?

Some have taken this to mean that individuals would now have shorter lifespans, so that each person is limited to living only 120 years, but there are two problems with that interpretation. First, several biblical figures live longer than 120 years after this promise in Genesis 6, including Sarah (127 years; Gen. 23:1), Abraham (175 years; Gen. 25:7), Ishmael (137 years; Gen. 25:17), and Jacob (147 years; Gen. 47:28). Second, the immediate context of this promise brings us directly to the destruction of humankind through a flood.

So, God says that he will withdraw his Spirit from their midst (Gen. 6:3). Up until this point, God’s Spirit had apparently dealt generally with humankind to “abide” in them, or more literally, to “strive” or “plead a cause” with them. The language suggests that God’s Spirit had personally sought out repentance from these people. But when they persisted in their disobedience, God judged them by giving them what they wanted: he withdrew the Spirit’s presence from their lives.1

We tend to think of the flood as God’s great judgment against humanity—and the flood was indeed severe—but we should not overlook the severity of withdrawing the Holy Spirit. We were created to be dwelling places for the Holy Spirit, so losing the direct presence of the Holy Spirit was a new kind of death. Just as Adam and Eve experienced spiritual death (leading to their physical death) by being expelled from the direct presence of God in the Garden of Eden, so now in Genesis 6 humanity experiences deeper consequences of that spiritual death by losing the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit—and as a result, God brings the judgment to completion by also sending physical death through a flood.

The rest of the story of the Bible tells how God’s people come to regain the Holy Spirit. For awhile, God only gave his Spirit to specially anointed leaders, like prophets (1 Sam. 10:10), priests (2 Chron. 24:20), and kings (1 Sam. 16:13). These leaders mediated the presence of God’s Spirit to the people, who were not allowed to experience God’s Spirit directly.

But Jesus came to restore the Spirit to us. After his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus received from his Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, and then poured out the Holy Spirit on his people (Acts 2:33). Through Jesus, we receive back what was lost all the way back in Genesis 6: the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

1 George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 17–19.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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