It’s one of my favorite stories. If you have been at Hebron for ten years or more, you’ve most likely heard it.
Nearly 70 years ago, Dr. Robert Lamont was living in Pittsburgh and preaching at The First Presbyterian Church downtown, as their 10th senior pastor. It was during the early years of his tenure when he and his wife were expecting their first child and Lamont had invited Barnhouse to come and preach for the week.
Every night it was the same routine. There’d be fifteen minutes of singing and prayer, then Lamont would come and introduce Barnhouse; and for the next 45 minutes this nationally acclaimed Bible teacher would come and teach. But one night Lamont was missing. So, Barnhouse got up, introduced himself, and began to teach. About 30 minutes into his message the big back doors of the church opened and in walked Lamont. He tried to be inconspicuous, but as soon as he entered the sanctuary Barnhouse stopped and stared at him. Everyone began to laugh. They all knew where he had been, but no one said anything. When Lamont took his seat, Barnhouse simply continued his message. When it was over, Lamont hurried to his side and said, “Dr. Barnhouse, can I see you in my office right away?”
Now normally at the end of the service, they’d both stand at the front of the sanctuary, but this night the elders handled those duties. Lamont closed his office door and said, “Donald, I’ve just come from the hospital. My wife has given birth to a mongoloid son. (Today it’s called Down Syndrome.) “They’ve taken the infant away. They won’t let us see him. My wife is crying and she wants answers. What should I tell her?” And Barnhouse said, “Tell her this is of the Lord.” And instantly Lamont said, “I can’t tell her that! Where did you get that?” Dr. Barnhouse opened his Bible to Exodus 4 where Moses is telling the Lord why he can’t go to Pharaoh. He says, “I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to me, but I am slow to speech and of tongue.” And then the Lord said to him, “Who made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” And with that Lamont left his office and headed to the hospital. When he entered the room his wife was crying, “Where’s my baby? Why won’t they let me see our baby?” And Lamont said, “Honey, I don’t understand it all, but the Lord has blessed us with a mongoloid child.” She was shocked and through tears said, “Where’d you get that?” Lamont opened his Bible and read it to her. Now there was a telephone operator at the hospital who was an agnostic at best. She knew that given the right set of circumstances any Christian would go to pieces the same way anyone else would. So, she decided to listen in to the phone call Mrs. Lamont placed to her mother. She said, “Mom, we don’t understand it right now but God has blessed us with a mongoloid son.” There were no tears. There was no anguish, just quiet surrender, and the operator couldn’t believe it. The news spread like wildfire all over the hospital. And the following Sunday night, when Dr. Lamont had finished preaching, he stood at the front of the sanctuary ready to pray with anyone who might have come forward to receive Christ. When he opened his eyes, there in front of him stood 24 nurses and the telephone operator.
Now think of it. A week earlier when Barnhouse was asked, “What shall I tell my wife?” do you think for one minute he knew that that baby would be the one God would use to bring 24 nurses and a telephone operator to Christ? Not on your life. The only thing he knew was how to apply the Word of God to Lamont’s situation.
One Christmas a family received an elaborate wooden puzzle. It had over 500 finely cut and pointed pieces. As the father of the house walked through the family room, he noticed that his two older sons were working on putting the pieces together while their 3-year-old sister was off to the side with a few pieces.
As soon as he walked into the room the little girl shouted excitedly, “Daddy, come here and see how I’ve put the puzzle together!” When he walked over she held up a red piece and said, “This is an apple.” She had about 20 random pieces that she had set all over the table, and to her it qualified as putting the puzzle together. Now, as she was showing her father her discoveries, her two older brothers shook their heads. They knew that she didn’t have a clue, but to a 3-year-old that was all there was to it.
And that’s how it is with interpreting the Bible. You can read it sequentially. You can memorize the words. You can quote them chapter and verse, and gain a certain amount of understanding. But it’s not until you seek to put the puzzle together by drawing in all the other scripture that bears on a particular text or theme that the puzzle comes together.
That’s what we are going to seek to do throughout 2021 as we dig into the Book of Genesis. It is the place where every major Christian theme and doctrine has its roots. We will see that time and time again, throughout our study.
In preparation for our first message: “Getting It All Started” from Genesis 1:1-3, you may wish to consider the following:
1. What does verse 1 of chapter 1 tell us about God?
2. What does it tell us about time?
3. What did St. Augustine mean when he said, “I cannot show you my God, not because there is no God to show, but because you have no eyes to see Him.”?
4. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Out of nothing, nothing comes.” How is he right? How is he wrong?
5. How important is the period after verse 1?
6. What does it mean that the Spirit of God “was hovering over the face of the waters”?
7. How do we see the Triune God in verses 1-3?
8. Where’s the Gospel in verse 3?
9. What doctrines can you identify in verses 1-3?
See you Sunday!