Answering Your Tough Biblical Questions

“Why did the people in Genesis live such long lives?”
It is somewhat of a mystery why people in Genesis lived for so long. There are many theories put forward by Biblical scholars. The genealogy in Genesis 5 records the line of the godly descendants of Adam – the line that would eventually produce the Messiah. God possibly blessed this line with especially long life as a result of their godliness and obedience. While this is a possible explanation, the Bible nowhere specifically limits the long life spans to the individuals mentioned in Genesis 5. Further, other than Enoch, Genesis 5 does not identify any of the individuals as being especially godly. It is likely that everyone at that time period lived several hundred years. Several factors probably contributed to this.
A protective canopy of water
Genesis 1:6-7 mentions the water above the expanse, a canopy of water that surrounded the earth. Such a water canopy would have created a greenhouse effect and would have blocked much of the radiation that now hits the earth. This would have resulted in ideal living conditions. Genesis 7:11 indicates that, at the time of the Flood, the water canopy was poured out on the earth, ending the ideal living conditions. Compare the life spans before the Flood (Gen 5:1-32) with those after the Flood (Gen 11:10-32). Immediately after the Flood, the ages decreased dramatically.
Sin corrupted the genetic code
Another consideration is that in the first few generations after Creation, the human genetic code had developed a few defects. Adam and Eve were created perfectly. They were surely highly resistant to disease and illness. Their descendants would have inherited these advantages, albeit to lesser degrees. Over time, as a result of sin, the human genetic code became increasingly corrupted, and human beings became more and more susceptible to death and disease. This would also have resulted in drastically reduced life spans. 
“What is the origin of the different races?”
The Bible does not explicitly give us the origin of the different “races” or skin colours in humanity. In actuality, there is only one race – the human race. Within the human race is diversity in skin colour and other physical characteristics.
Did it all begin at Babel?
Some speculate that when God confused the languages at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9), He also created racial diversity. It is possible that the Lord made genetic changes to humanity to better enable people to survive in different ecologies, such as the darker skin of African people being better equipped genetically to survive the excessive heat in Africa.
According to this view, God confused the languages, causing humanity to segregate linguistically, and then created genetic racial differences based on where each racial group would eventually settle. While possible, there is no explicit Biblical basis for this view. The races/skin colours of humanity are nowhere mentioned in connection with the tower of Babel.
Various cultural groups were formed
At the Tower of Babel, when the different languages came into existence, groups that spoke one language moved away with others of the same language. In doing so, the gene pool for a specific group shrank dramatically as the group no longer had the entire human population to mix with.
Closer inbreeding took place, and in time certain features were emphasised in these different groups (all of which were present as a possibility in the genetic code). As further inbreeding occurred through the generations, the gene pool grew smaller and smaller, to the point that people of one language family all had the same or similar features.
Colourful genes
Another explanation is that Adam and Eve possessed the genes to produce black, brown, and white offspring (and everything else in between). This would be similar to how a mixed-race couple sometimes has children that vary in colour. Since God obviously desired humanity to be diverse in appearance, it makes sense that He would have given Adam and Eve the ability to produce children of different skin tones.
Later, the only survivors of the Flood were Noah and his wife, Noah’s three sons and their wives – eight people in all (Gen 7:13). Perhaps Noah’s daughters-in-law were of different races. It is also possible that Noah’s wife was of a different race than Noah. Maybe all eight of them were of mixed race, which would mean they possessed the genetics to produce children of different races. Whatever the explanation, the most important aspect of this question is that we are all human, all created by the same God, all created for the same purpose – to glorify Him. 
“If God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, why did He create them?”
The Bible says that God created all things – including us – for Himself. He is glorified in His creation. “From Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen” Rom 11:36.
It may be difficult to see how Adam and Eve’s falling into sin could bring glory to God. In fact, some might even wonder why He made them when He knew all the trouble they would cause.
The Lord’s plan for the fall
God is omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6), and He knows the future (Isaiah 46:10). So He definitely knew that Adam and Eve would sin. But He created them anyway and gave them a free will. We must carefully note that Adam and Eve’s falling into sin does not mean that God is the author of sin or that He tempted them to sin (James 1:13). But the fall does serve the purpose of God’s overall plan for creation and mankind.
The storyline of Scripture
If we consider what some theologians call the “meta-narrative” (or overarching storyline) of Scripture, we see that Biblical history can be roughly divided into three main sections:
Paradise (Gen 1-2)
Paradise lost (Gen 3 – Rev 20)
Paradise regained (Rev 21 – 22)
By far the largest part of the narrative is devoted to the transition from paradise lost to paradise regained. At the centre of this meta-narrative is the Cross, which was planned from the very beginning (Acts 2:23). “The Lamb…was slain from the creation of the world” Rev 13:8.
God is always in control
Reading Scripture carefully, we are led to the following conclusions:
Mankind’s fall was foreknown by God
The crucifixion of Christ, the atonement for God’s elect, was ordained by God
All people will one day glorify God (Ps 86:9), and God’s purposes (Eph 1:10).
The goal is His glory
God’s purpose was to create a world in which His glory could be manifest in all its fullness. The glory of the Lord is the overarching goal of creation. In fact, it is the overarching goal of everything He does. The universe was created to display God’s glory (Ps 19:1), and the wrath of God is revealed against those who fail to glorify Him (Rom 1:23). The world that best displays the glory of the Lord is the world we have – a world that was allowed to fall, a world that is being redeemed, a world that will be restored to its original perfection.
Our desperate need for grace
God’s wrath and mercy display the riches of His glory, but we cannot see either without the fall of mankind. We would never know grace if we had never needed grace. Therefore, all of God’s plan – including the Fall, Election, Redemption, and Atonement of mankind – serves the purpose of glorifying Him. When man fell into sin, the Lord’s mercy was immediately displayed by not killing him on the spot.
God’s grace was immediately evident in the covering He provided for their shame (Gen 3:21). His patience and forbearance were later on display as mankind fell deeper into sin. God’s justice and wrath were on display when He sent the Flood, and His mercy and grace were again demonstrated when He saved Noah and his family. God’s holy wrath and perfect justice will be seen in the future when He deals with satan once and for all (Rev 20:7-10).
The greatest display of love
God’s glory is also revealed in His love (1 John 4:16). Our knowledge of God’s love comes from the Person and saving work of Jesus Christ in this fallen world. “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him” 1 John 4:9.
Had God not decided to create Adam and Eve, based on His knowledge of their fall – or had He made them automatons with no volition – we would never have truly known what love is.
The ultimate exhibition of God’s glory was at the Cross where His wrath, justice, and mercy met. The righteous judgement of all sin was executed at the Cross, and God’s grace was on display in His Son’s words, “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:34.
God’s love and grace are manifest in those whom He has saved (John 3:16; Eph 2:8–9). In the end, God will be glorified as His chosen people worship Him for all eternity with the angels, and the wicked will also glorify the Lord as His righteousness results in the eternal punishment of unrepentant sinners (Phil 2:11). Without the fall of Adam and Eve, we would never know God’s justice, grace, mercy, or love.
His will is sovereign
Some raise the objection that God’s foreknowledge and foreordination of the fall damages man’s freedom. In other words, if God created mankind with knowledge of the impending fall into sin, how can man be responsible for his sin? The best answer to that question can be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
In other words, the Lord ordains future events in such a way that our freedom and the working of secondary causes (e.g., laws of nature) are preserved. Theologians call this “concurrence.” God’s sovereign will flows concurrently with our free choices in such a way that our free choices always result in the carrying out of God’s will (by “free” we mean that our choices are not coerced by outside influences). It’s a complex interaction of wills and choices, but the Creator God can handle any amount of complexity.
The Lord foresaw Adam and Eve’s fall. He created them anyway, in His own image, to bring glory to Himself. They were given freedom to make choices. Even though they chose to disobey, their choice became the means by which God’s ultimate will was carried out and by which His full glory will be seen. 

“Where was the garden of eden located?”
People have searched for the Garden of Eden for centuries to no avail. There are various spots claimed as the original location, but no one can be sure. What happened to the Garden? The Bible does not specifically say, but it is likely that the Garden was completely destroyed in the Flood.
An uncertain origin
The only thing the Bible tells us concerning the Garden of Eden’s location is found in Genesis 2:10-14, “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold…The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”
The exact identities of the Pishon and Gihon Rivers are unknown, but the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are well known.
Possible locations
If the Tigris and Euphrates mentioned are the same rivers by those names today, that would put the Garden of Eden somewhere in the Middle East, likely in Iraq. However, even a small local flood can change the course of a river, and the Flood of Noah’s day was more than a localised flood! The Deluge completely changed the topography of the earth. Because of this, the original location of the Tigris and Euphrates is uncertain. It could be that the modern rivers called the Tigris and Euphrates are simply named after those associated with Eden, in the same way that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is named after the town in Judea.
The remains of the garden
If the Middle East region is where the Garden of Eden was, and if crude oil is, as most scientists believe, primarily decayed vegetation and animal matter, then it stands to reason that the Middle East is where we would find the greatest oil deposits.
Many people speculate that the vast stores of oil in the Middle East are the result of the decomposition of Earth’s lushest organic materials in the Garden of Eden. While the oil in the Middle East could be the dregs of Eden, those who promote such ideas are simply theorising. 
Heaven will surpass Eden
. 
Got Questions seeks to glorify God by providing Biblical and applicable answers to spiritually related questions. For more info: www.

Iran – Emerging Empire

While Iran’s approach toward a nuclear bomb has provoked a major clash between the White House and the US Congress, Iran’s march toward conventional domination of the Arab world has been largely overlooked. In Washington, that is. The Arabs have noticed. And the pro-American ones, the Gulf Arabs in particular, are deeply worried.
Earlier this year, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized control of the Yemeni government, heretofore pro-American. In September last year, they overran Sanaa, the capital. Then, recently, they seized the presidential palace and later forced the president to resign.
The Houthis have local religious grievances, being Shiites in a majority Sunni land. But they are also agents of Shiite Iran, which arms, trains and advises them. Their slogan – “God is great. Death to America. Death to Israel” – could have been written in Persian.
Why should we care about the coup? First, because we  (as Western moderates) depend on Yemen’s government to support our drone war against another local menace, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It’s not clear if America can even maintain their embassy in Yemen, let alone conduct operations against AQAP. And second, because growing Iranian hegemony is a mortal threat to our allies and interests in the entire Middle East.
In Syria, Iran’s power is similarly rising. The mullahs rescued the reeling regime of Bashar al-Assad by sending in weapons, money and Iranian revolutionary guards, as well as by ordering their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to join the fight. They succeeded. The moderate rebels are in disarray, even as Assad lives in de facto coexistence with the Islamic State, which controls a large part of his country.
Iran’s domination of Syria was further illustrated by a strange occurrence in the Golan Heights. An Israeli helicopter attacked a convoy on the Syrian side of the armistice line. Those killed were not Syrian, however, but five Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and several Iranian officials, including a brigadier general. What were they doing in the Syrian Golan Heights?
Giving “crucial advice,” announced the Iranian government. On what? Well, three days earlier, Hezbollah’s leader had threatened an attack on Israel’s Galilee. Tehran appears to be using its control of Syria and Hezbollah to create its own front against Israel.
The Israelis can defeat any conventional attack. Not so the very rich, very weak Gulf Arabs. To the north and west, they see Iran creating a satellite “Shiite Crescent” stretching to the Mediterranean and consisting of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. To their south and west, they see Iran gaining proxy control of Yemen. And they are caught in the pincer.
The Saudis are fighting back the only way they can – with massive production of oil at a time of oversupply and collapsing prices, placing enormous economic pressure on Iran. It needs $136 (R1500) oil to maintain its budget. The price today is below $50 (R580).
Yet the Obama administration appears to be ready to acquiesce to the new reality of Iranian domination of Syria. It has told the New York Times that it is essentially abandoning its proclaimed goal of removing Assad.
For the Saudis and the other Gulf Arabs, this is a nightmare. They’re engaged in a titanic regional struggle with Iran. And they are losing – losing Yemen, losing Lebanon, losing Syria and watching post-US-withdrawal Iraq come under increasing Iranian domination.
The nightmare would be hugely compounded by Iran going nuclear. The Saudis were already stupefied that Washington conducted secret negotiations with Tehran behind their backs. And they can see where the current talks are headed – legitimising Iran as a threshold nuclear state. Which makes all the more incomprehensible Obama’s fierce opposition to strengthening the American negotiating hand, by passing sanctions to be triggered if Iran fails to agree to give up its nuclear programme. After all, that was the understanding Obama gave Congress when he began these last-ditch negotiations in the first place.
[So the obvious question then – why is Obama parroting Tehran’s talking points, and willingly ignoring the blatant and urgent cautions from Israel about Iran?] Why is America endorsing Iran’s claim that sanctions-relief is the new norm? Obama assured the nation that sanctions relief was but a temporary concession to give last-minute, time-limited negotiations a chance. Twice the deadline has come. Twice no new sanctions, just unconditional negotiating extensions.
[Western regional] allies – Saudi Arabia, the other five Gulf states, Jordan, Egypt and Israel – are deeply worried. Tehran is visibly on the affront on the ground and openly on the march to nuclear status. And their one great ally, their strategic anchor for two generations, is acquiescing to both.  
—by Charles Krauthammer
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist, author, political commentator, and physician. This article was first published by the Washington Post:

Dealing With Ageing Parents

If you are so fortunate to have both children and parents to take care of, you are part of the sandwich generation. This means that you find yourself in the middle of, on the one side, children with all the responsibilities that come with raising them, and on the other hand, your parents who are by now becoming increasingly dependent on you.

With modern technology and medical development, people are living longer, get married and have children later which means that if you are middle aged you could very well find yourself taking care of children and parents.

Handling everyday issues
One of the reasons why people find it so difficult to deal with ageing parents, could be because of the fear (and the knowledge) that we will all follow in that same path. Seeing our parents getting older often acts as a prediction of what is waiting for us. Some of us become exceedingly worried and almost obsessed with helping them, while others will just choose to ignore the issue and hope it will go away.
Whether you become a nervous wreck about your parents or whether you bury your head in the sand, the fact remains that this is one of those social and personal issues in our lives that must be dealt with. When dealing with this it might be valuable to keep in mind that there are normally quite a few people involved. Not only is the safety and happiness of the grandparent paramount but also that of the rest of the close family.

Find the root of the problem
For this reason it could be wise to analyse and tackle the challenge the way we do with all problems. First determine the nature and extend of the issue. If Granddad is grumpy, it means that he is frustrated. Try to determine possible causes like physical pain, worries about independence, finances, physical strength, health and mobility, feeling helpless, possible depression, the side effects of medication, feeling unwanted and unloved or struggling with moral and religious issues.

Offer practical help
If a specific cause can be pin-pointed, it makes doing something about it much easier. Assist them with important decisions like making a will, joining a reliable medical aid fund, budgeting, managing pensions, investments, policies – this might go a long way in order to bring some peace of mind.

If the problem is physical by nature and they need support and assistance, help them organise that. Think twice before taking on the task of looking after Granddad yourself – there are many factors, people and relationships to take into account when making this decision. Investigate professional organisations that could assist.
Make sure that their health is taken care of and that they visit the doctor regularly and that medication is taken correctly and regularly. Scheduling regular medical examinations can bring peace of mind, not only for the grandparent but also for the caretaker.

Also look after Granddad’s or grandmom’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Staying in contact with family and friends, participating in social activities, staying mentally and intellectually active and stimulated will reduce the level of frustration. Arrange with someone to address religious and faith issues in order to put the aged mind at ease.

Thank God for your elderly parents
Whatever the cause may be, remember that all behaviour is motivated. If Granddad is grumpy and unpleasant there must be a reason for that. Finding and identifying that reason and doing something about it will make life easier for all involved. Make an effort to involve them in family activities so that they will also feel part of the family and not isolated and useless. Give them tasks and responsibilities that they can handle. This will ensure that they stay active, feel that they are noticed and it might also help you with your own burden of daily chores and responsibilities. Be grateful for the blessing of having grandparents around who can still support and motivate you and your children.

“Children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.” Proverbs 17: 6. 

Dr Dorothy du Plessis is a Family and Marriage Counsellor, Parenting Workshop Presenter and part-time lecturer at the ICP. For counselling or enquiries about studies in Christian Psychology call 011 827 7611011 827 7611.

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The Road To His Execution

It’s early in the final week. The props and players for Friday’s drama are in position. Five-inch spikes are in the bin. A crossbeam leans against a shed wall. The players are nearing the stage – Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas, Judas, the centurions.
Players and props. Only this is no play; it’s a divine plan. A plan begun before Adam felt Heaven’s breath, and now all Heaven waits and watches. All eyes are on one figure – the Nazarene. Commonly clad. Uncommonly focused. Leaving Jericho and walking toward Jerusalem. He doesn’t chatter or pause. He’s on his final journey.

His final journey
Even the angels are silent. They know this is no ordinary walk or week. For hinged on this week is the door of eternity. He knew the end was near. He knew the finality of Friday.

Let’s walk with Him. Let’s see how Jesus spent His final days. Enter the holy week and observe. Feel His passion. Sense His power. Hear His promise that death has no power. Let’s follow Jesus on His final journey. For by observing His, we may learn how to make ours.

In the Garden
“Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.”  Mark 14:32–33.
Go with me for a moment to witness what was perhaps the foggiest night in history. The scene is very simple; you’ll recognise it quickly. A grove of twisted olive trees. Ground cluttered with large rocks. A low stone fence. A dark, dark night.

A true reflection of Christ’s turmoil
Now, look into the picture. Look closely through the shadowy foliage. See that solitary figure? Flat on the ground. Face stained with dirt and tears. Fists pounding the hard earth. Eyes wide with a stupor of fear. Hair matted with salty sweat. Is that blood on His forehead?

That’s Jesus. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe you’ve seen the classic portrait of Christ in the Garden. Kneeling beside a big rock. Snow-white robe. Hands peacefully folded in prayer. A look of serenity on His face. A halo over His head. The painter didn’t use the gospel of Mark as a pattern. When Mark wrote about that painful night, he used phrases such as these: “Horror and dismay came over Him,” “My heart is ready to break with grief,” and “He went a little forward and threw Himself on the ground” Mark 14:32-42.

Mark used black paint to describe this scene. We see an agonising, straining, and struggling Jesus. We see a “Man of sorrows” Isaiah 53:3. We see a Man struggling with fear, wrestling with commitments, and yearning for relief. We see Jesus in the fog of a broken heart.

When you suffer, think of Him
The next time the fog finds you, remember Jesus in the Garden. The next time you think that no one understands or cares, reread the 14th chapter of Mark and pay a visit to Gethsemane. And the next time you wonder if God really perceives the pain that prevails on this planet, listen to Him pleading among the twisted trees.
The next time you are called to suffer, pay attention. It may be the closest you’ll ever get to God. Watch closely. It could very well be that the hand that extends itself to lead you out of the fog is a pierced one. No wonder they call Him the Saviour.

The Cross
To the casual observer the six hours of the crucifixion are mundane. A shepherd with his sheep, a housewife with her thoughts, a doctor with his patients. But to the handful of awestruck witnesses, the most maddening of miracles is occurring. God is on a cross. The Creator of the universe is being executed.

Spit and blood are caked to His cheeks, and His lips are cracked and swollen. Thorns rip His scalp. His lungs scream with pain. His legs knot with cramps. Taut nerves threaten to snap as pain twangs her morbid melody. Yet, death is not ready. And there is no one to save Him, for He is sacrificing Himself.

It is no normal six hours. it is no normal Friday. For worse than the breaking of His body is the shredding of His heart. His own countrymen clamour for His death. His own disciple planted the kiss of betrayal. His own friends ran for cover. And now His own Father is beginning to turn His back on Him, leaving Him alone.

You need to respond!
Let me ask you a question: What do you do with that day in history? What do you do with its claims? If it really happened…if God did commandeer His own crucifixion…if He did turn His back on His own Son…and if He did storm satan’s gate, then those six hours that Friday were packed with tragic triumph. If that was God on that Cross, then the hill called Skull is granite studded with stakes to which you can anchor your soul forever. 

His final journey, my new beginning by Max Lucado is published by Struik Christian Media, available at CUM Book Stores Nationwide.