All the World's a Classroom
The assurance of a calling is a precious thing indeed. This year, after two years of asking God why, I saw and understood with clarity why I am where I am right now, with all prevailing circumstances, as if a portion of faith truly became sight. There is no shadow of doubt in my mind that I am where I need to be, doing what I’m supposed to do, and it is a marvelous feeling to have this assurance as spiritual bedrock in my life.
Yet, it turns out that having this assurance is not all there is to it, because even though the assurance exists, it doesn’t mean that it feels marvelous in a sparkly and fireworks-y kind of way every day.
There are days when the assurance feels glorious. Usually, its first revelation heralds the honeymoon phase where your soul swells in gratitude every moment of your being. I’m glad to say, however, that once the honeymoon phase is over, these days still happen a lot. But there are the other days, when the sparkles and the magical dust settle, and you are left with the small and seemingly mundane things, and the question of faithfulness has nothing to do with your feeling or mood. On these days, the thought of your calling may elicit reactions such as the terrible “Ugh..” To make matters worse, you are tempted to look around and compare your calling with others’, and you end up transgressing the tenth commandment in a paradoxically sanctified (but not) kind of way, namely coveting other people’s calling.
Discontentment is like yeast. It starts with something so small, like a discouraging thought or a carelessly spoken word, but it can leaven an entire lump of spiritual life. But thankfully, unlike leavened bread, this spiritual leavening is not irreversible. And I think, the remedy for this condition, or even better, a way to avoid this whole thing, is a potion called love and commitment.
The thing that makes a calling grand is not so much in the calling itself, but in the Person behind the calling. He’s the reason why I responded to the calling in the first place. And so every day that I live, especially on those non-sparkly days, I need to remember my first love and renew my commitment. It is the Lord whom I have loved and committed my life to, and so whatever He says, I will do. He’s the One I love, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, and my love for the calling will come naturally via my love to the Person. “Every burden is light, for the yoke that Christ imposes is easy. Duty becomes a delight, and sacrifice a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness, becomes bright with beams from the Sun of Righteousness.” (Steps to Christ, p. 59) I think this is what Jesus meant by “if you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Why of course, if you love someone, why wouldn’t you want to do everything that this person says?
There is something about re-expressing love and commitment verbally to the object of one’s affection that heals and silences questions in the heart. It gives one strength to bear hardships no matter what happens. So, why wouldn’t I do it every day?
…Obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love… Obedience—the service and allegiance of love—is the true sign of discipleship.” (Steps to Christ, p. 60)
What is it like
to wake up from your musing
to find the mist clearing up before your eyes
and see glimpses of the world beyond
What is it like
to stand at the edge of a dream
to discover that reality looks somewhat familiar
because you’ve seen it in your sleep
What is it like
to realize that talks of changing the world in times past
are not so far-fetched after all
and your hands can seize and mold the presence
What is it like
to awaken with a thrill in your heart
to feel its reverberation in your soul
and find that these are the days
when life is better than dreams
When I worked on the Antediluvian Timeline, I was fascinated. But when I worked on this Postdiluvian Timeline, I was… flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Needless to say, it completely changed the way I read Genesis and the stories in that book. So, I invite you to go through this with me – I think it’d be worth your time.
There’s no easy way to communicate all of the fascinating points observed from this exercise, so I’ll do it in bullet points. I’d also add that with the postdiluvian timeline, there’s some caveat and uncertainties in the accounting, since the data are not as explicit as the antediluvian ones. I’ll go over these uncertainties in this post. And for references too, the bulk of the data is found in Genesis 11:10-26.
- I was fascinated to find out that 9 generations lived together for 56 years in the antediluvian period, but after the flood, there were 10 generations who lived together for 118 years! It was the sequence from Noah to Terah (Abram’s father), from year count 1878-1996. This happened because the age of humankind shortened after the flood, so while Noah and Shem still had the blessing of longevity, their offspring were starting to reproduce at younger ages. Thus, they saw more generations.
- Actually, it may even be 11 generations (or more) living at the same time, since according to Luke 3:36, between Arphaxad and Salah, there’s Cainan. For some reason the genealogy in Genesis 11 skips Cainan (this is true in some instances of genealogies where the ‘father’ may not necessarily be the direct parent, but may actually be the grandfather or great-grandfather, etc). So here, I’m taking Gen 11:12 to mean that Salah was born when Arphaxad was 530 years, doesn’t matter whether Arphaxad was his father or grandfather. What I’m not assuming is that Arphaxad actually begat Cainan when he was 530 and we don’t know at what age Cainan begat Salah. I hope you could follow that.. (comments on this point are welcome)
- Shem was still alive when Abram was born. Even greater yet, he was still alive when Isaac was born. Shem died when Isaac was 50 years old, some 10 years before Esau and Jacob were born, 10 years after Isaac married Rebecca.
- Shem saw 10 generations after him, although not all living at the same time.
- In Patriarchs and Prophets p. 125, it says “Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, in unbroken line, had preserved from age to age the precious revealings of His will. The son of Terah became the inheritor of this holy trust.” This is taken to imply that Abram was instructed by Shem personally. Imagine that, to hear of God’s grace and judgment from someone who went through the flood, who saw and experienced the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.
- Abram was born some ~350 years after the flood, but he was instructed by someone who actually went through the flood! (This is so crazy I have to write it twice!)
- In Gen 10-11, it is recorded that the nations were divided after the flood. So, even though these generations lived at the same time, they might not live in the same places, although of course there are possibilities of them traveling and visiting each other, as probably what happened in the case of Abram and Shem.
- Everyone from Arphaxad to Isaac had direct interaction with at least one person who actually went through the flood.
- Everyone from Arphaxad to Terah could hear about the flood from Noah himself!
- This means that everyone who was born from right after the flood up until the days of Isaac was contemporary of the survivors of the flood. Imagine how ridiculous a skeptic would sound in those time periods who would deny the flood ever took place. Noah and Shem would be like, “Err..I was there.” It would be equivalent to a 21st century person saying that 9/11 didn’t happen. Basically for these people, the flood was not ancient history.
- Noah outlived Nahor (Abram’s grandfather) by 9 years.
- If you put the postdiluvian timeline side by side with the postdiluvian genealogy below (click on picture), you’ll see something else that’s amazing. In Gen 23 after Sarah died, Abraham went to the children of Heth to buy a piece of land for Sarah’s burial. Sarah died when she was 127 years old, i.e., when Isaac was 37 years old, 3 years before Isaac got married (year count 2145).
- Heth was Canaan’s son, Ham’s grandson, meaning that he was approximately contemporary of Salah, who was still alive during the time of Abram, but died before year count 2145. This means that it could very well be that when Abraham went to the children of Heth, Heth himself might still be alive, or even Caanan himself might still be alive. But what’s more likely is that Ham was still alive, since he also probably had a long life as Shem did. (Note: the descendants of Heth were called the Hittites – FYI; in Gen 26:34-35, Esau married two Hittite women and grieved his parents). I recommend using these figures when you read Genesis or even the rest of the Old Testament. It’s kinda cool to see the lineage of certain people and nations in Israel’s history.
Antediluvian and Postdiluvian Patriarchs
Now if you zoom out to see both the antediluvian and the postdiluvian timelines, you can count the degrees of separation between Adam to Abram.
- Adam could pass on his knowledge of God to Methuselah and Lamech, who had direct interactions with Shem for about 100 years. Shem, then passed it on to Abram, and possibly Isaac. Thus, there are only 3 degrees of separation between Adam and Abram. See why they didn’t need written records as much back then?
- Seeing this zoomed-out version makes me realize that there’s not that many degree of separation between these guys and Moses as well, since Moses lived around 200 years after Joseph’s time (my next timeline project). This means that the assumption that the Israelites forgot everything about the true God while they were enslaved in Egypt may not be true, since these things were not ancient history for them. In fact, it may very well be that they remembered a lot of it.
As before, if you want the Excel file for these timelines, let me know and I can email it to you. There’s much more notes than what I can share in this blog entry, especially with the collection of the data. For example, the age of Terah when Abram was born is inferred from several Bible verses, so there’s some uncertainties there. The age of Jacob when Joseph was born also needed to be calculated from several time points given in multiple places in Genesis. I still have to type these out, but if you want them, I can send it to you as well.
This is the second of the Genesis Timeline and Genealogies series. Read the first here.