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Rebellion of the Gods (Section Review & Discussion)
Read Supernatural, chapters 3–4.
Read and prepare to discuss Genesis 1–3; 6:1–8.
The Big Picture
In chapters 3–4 of Supernatural, we learned about God’s original home, the garden of Eden.
The garden was a place of God’s physical presence, a locatable spot on the earth where the Creator could meet with humankind and commune with them in perfect fellowship.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed and were kicked out of the garden, our attention is drawn to both what they lost and what they gained.
What they had lost, of course, was the immediate favor of God.
Several curses were to follow them through life.
But what they had gained is important as well, as noted at the conclusion of the story: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil’ ” (Gen 3:22 nkjv).
Adam’s sin led him to be awakened to knowledge that he had not had before.
Adam now had the “knowledge of good and evil,” and God was not pleased.
It was time for Adam and Eve to leave the garden and to have the door bolted behind them.
Estrangement from God came along with estrangement from his garden.
But with this estrangement also came a kind of knowledge that would come to haunt humankind.
More on this as we go.
Biblical writers often return to the memory of Eden at other critical moments.
For example, during the exodus from Egypt, Israel was led to the place where God would eventually “put his name” (Deut 12:5).
God intended to reestablish a physical place to identify as his own, and this would have reminded the Israelites of what Adam had earlier enjoyed.
In his prophecy, Ezekiel mentions Eden by name when speaking of the future hope of a restored and faithful Israel (Ezek 36:35).
This introduces us to the concept described in Supernatural as “cosmic geography.”
Land, borders, hills, rivers, and even physical clods of dirt carried spiritual meaning, notably because spiritual forces were assumed to exercise territorial ownership.
Eden is just the beginning.
Hang on to this critical idea as we continue in our study.
The Main Idea
“Houston, we have a problem.”
At some point in the story—we are never explicitly told when or how or why—evil spirits came into existence.
There are many unanswered questions regarding the origin of evils spirits, or the gods of the first commandment.
Tradition and poetry (such as Dante’s Inferno) have tended to confuse us, giving us more information than the Bible.
All we know for sure, in returning to our story, is that as Adam and Eve left the garden they were venturing into a world under dominion of the divine rebel of Eden, who had been “cast down” to earth, and where rival gods would emerge who were hostile to the people loyal to the true God.
Above them the sign flashed, “Mankind, you have a problem.”
This problem, we learn all too quickly, is that heavenly disloyalty among spirits is about to spread to the humans who worship them.
To sins of all varieties, mankind will add the act of flagrant rebellion—the kind of rebellion where a man is caught saying intimate things to the person on the other end of the phone.
God’s jealousy will burn, like a scorned wife who is left alone at her door.
Hosea uses a close illustration: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.… [Yet] they sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to carved images” (Hosea 11:1–2 nkjv).
We can now see the urgency of the first commandment.
“You shall have no other elohim before me” was not talking about giving attention to money or boats or cars.
It was God’s jealous love on full display, pointing directly to the most dangerous element of his creation—the world of supernatural creatures who, for some reason, enjoy human worship—while also eerily predicting what would happen before the coming of Christ.
“You shall make no covenant with [the Canaanites], nor with their gods.
They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me.
For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Exod 23:32–33 nkjv).
“You have uncovered yourself to those other than [God],” Isaiah later tells the Israelites.
“You have gone up to them, and have enlarged your bed and have made a covenant with them.
You have loved their bed” (Isa 57:8 nkjv adapted).
The Great Commandment was broken.
Digging Deeper
It’s interesting that Old Testament writers take little interest in Adam and Eve.
Their story is not mentioned again after Genesis 3. What is not lost on later writers, however, is Adam’s willingness to listen and obey a spirit who was not his Creator.
He sinned in disobeying a command about a tree and fruit, but even more so he sinned in obeying the wrong voice.
He disobeyed one elohim to obey another, and this will form the larger story of the Old Testament: “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress” (Judg 10:14 nkjv).
No wonder Adam hid from God.
He was afraid that his disloyalty would be discovered.
In this light, consider how the “sons of God” appear in Genesis 6 as though they are expected players on the stage.
As we read in Supernatural, the title “sons of” can have the simple meaning of “those to be identified as” (much like “sons of men” can simply mean “human,” 2 Sam 7:14).
When played off the “daughters of men” in Genesis 6:4, the clear meaning of the story is that elohim interrupted themselves into human affairs.
Yes, it sounds odd.
But as I like to remind myself, I cannot get into the habit of taking all the odd verses out of the Bible.
We believe in a truly supernatural world, created by God to include a society of men and spirits who have immediate contact with each other on various levels and in mysterious ways.
In short, the Bible presumes a world in which God and gods regularly involve themselves with humans.
As one of my teachers liked to say as he turned to the next page in his notes … get used to it.
Knowledge in Action
As Supernatural explains, the image of God is best understood as a role we play in God’s creation.
It is our stewardship to rule our planet and to rule it well.
This idea of stewardship is sometimes detectible in how the Bible speaks of “glory.”
We glorify someone when we speak well of them (compare Acts 13:48).
When used as a noun, “glory” can refer to “doing well with” what one owns or has been given (Prov 25:2; Jer 21:5; Isa 46:13, “Israel my glory”).
So we can think of our “image” as a gift from God, a stewardship of rule, which we have unfortunately lost because of our disloyalty to our Creator (Rom 3:23, “fallen short of the glory of God”).
Humankind has handed the privilege of rule over to the beings they have chosen to worship.
When people are full of care about something, we can call them “careful.”
A situation is “stressful” when it is full of stress.
So it is in the Bible when dealing with the words “faith” and “faithful.”
When a person has faith, and has a lot of it, he or she is said to be faithful.
Our English language often distinguishes faith from faithfulness—the first having to do with what we believe, and the second with how we act—and this is desperately unfortunate.
“Faith” and “faithful” arise from the same Hebrew and Greek words.
The importance of this understanding relates to the meaning of faith, and why the story of salvation in both Testaments revolves around becoming faithful to the right God.
The issue, as we will see, is one of loyalty.
The sin of idolatry will not be like just any other sin.
It will be the sin, the operative indiscretion of sending our loyalty to another person or being who is not our Creator.
This is why salvation in the Bible is always described in faith-ing terms.
God is not ultimately looking for better behavior.
He is looking for faith, or loyalty.
You may have heard of the term “spiritual warfare.”
While it appears that this idea can be overused, there is a sense in which we need to speak about it now, just after Adam and Eve leave the garden.
Adam is heading into a real war, where temptation to honor and serve and love other gods will be the basic temptation of humankind (Jer 8:2).
Wars between nations will be thought of in terms of disputes to be settled between gods (Judg 11:23–24), and Joshua’s battles leave no doubt as to God’s ultimate control of the enemy (Josh 11:19–20).
As a practical matter, Paul will later call the kind of sufferings that relate to our spiritual war as “sufferings of the gospel” (2 Tim 1:8).
We will certainly return to the concept of spiritual warfare in later discussion.
Discussion Questions
• Why do you think God said, “Let us make man in our image,” instead of the more expected “I will make man in my image”?
What are the implications that come out of this choice of words?
• Should we fault the original writers and readers of the Bible for thinking that God actually “lived” or existed on a particular plot of ground?
Read 2 Chronicles 30:27 and try to discern Solomon’s understanding of where God actually “exists.”
What difference does this make to our story?
• How are faith and faithfulness related in your understanding of what it means to be (or become) a Christian?
• An unhealthy understanding of spiritual warfare can be dangerous.
Why is this the case?
[1]
[1] Johnson, R. (2015).
Supernatural (A Study Guide).
Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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