Turn in your Bible to Genesis 10:1-32. This passage is an expansion of those passing comments that we saw last week about Shem, Ham, and Japheth: “From these the whole world was populated.” Here we have this long catalog of the nations descended from Noah’s sons. In just one more chapter we're going to be introduced to the father of Abram, and then for the rest of the book of Genesis we’ll be concentrating on one family and its descendants. Before we do that the Lord holds in front of our eyes the nations to remind us that He has not forgotten them, that His people must be conscious of their common bloodline, and that God has his own providential plan for the nations as well. This passage serves to set the line of Shem in its international context to show how it is related to the other nations of the ancient world and to prepare the way for the story of Abraham. Even in this long list of names there are a number of lessons to be learned. I'd like to point your attention to four.

I. The family of mankind

First, look at verse 1. Here we are reminded that God's people are set among the nations as a light to be a blessing to the nations. The Cainite line has been wiped out by the flood, so, according to Moses, the whole human family is descended from Noah and his sons. God is setting his people, descended through Shem, in the context of their relationship with the other nations. The whole human family, because it is descended from Noah, shares a single source and origin.

The implications for this are enormous. The book of Genesis is going to lay a tremendous stress on the separation of God's people from the unbelieving world around them. But this does not mean that God's people may look upon the unbelieving world with indifference. This passage forces God's people to view even their enemies as cousins who have a part in God's plan. We have seen throughout these chapters of Genesis a tremendous missionary force. God is not simply concerned with the Israelites and their predecessors;  He has a desire to see the nations brought to Him.

II. The coastlands.

Second, if you will look at verses 2-5, we’ll look at the line of Japheth. Though this is the shortest of the three sections, the language that is used about the lands which the sons of Japheth occupy reminds us that God even cares about the nations remotest to Israel. Look again at the language of verse 5. Coastlands (or isles, depending on your translation) is a technical term used as an image of the very remotest ends of the earth and God's interest in those remote ends of the earth. Isaiah and Jeremiah both look for a day when God will come to visit judgment and salvation upon the Gentiles, and they base it on the language of Genesis 10:5.

Again here we see a package of tremendous missionary significance. If the Old Testament church could not afford to be indifferent to the nations, then neither can the New Testament church. We, too, can never be cozy and determine simply to pad our own nest to look after our own people. We must always be looking out for the nations and determining to be a blessing to them. Now, there's a flip side to that message. If you read Jeremiah 25:17-22, you see that that God's judgment is going to be as extensive as the ends of the earth. God has not lost sight of the nations, either for judgment or for salvation.

III. Earthly vs. true prosperity.

Now we move onto verses 6-20, where we see the line of Ham. I want you to zero in on two things. First, in verses 8-12 we see the story of Nimrod. Nimrod is described in tremendously powerful terms. We are told, for instance, that he was a mighty one on the earth, and even in verse 9 that he was a mighty hunter before the Lord. This may indicate that he was a conqueror or man-hunter, so there is a dark side to Nimrod's power and his influence and his status in the land. He is part of the line of Ham, the cursed line, and yet he is mighty in the earth. Those who dwell apart from God in their lives often accumulate much earthly success and influence. That is not necessarily a sign of God's eternal and spiritual blessing upon them. In fact it may be, in some cases, a sign of His curse. He allows them to receive their influence and their wealth in this life, and there is none for them in the life to come.

Notice also as the territory of Canaan is described in verse 19 that that territory is lush. Though Canaan rests under the curse of God, Canaan is given land that is better land than Shem and Japheth had. Again, both of these incidences, the power of Nimrod and the territory of Canaan, remind us that the appearance of earthly prosperity and true heavenly prosperity are not the same.

Isn't this exactly the struggle that the psalmist was having in Psalm 73? In Psalm 73 this earnest believer looks out, and what he sees disturbs him. This godly man is attempting to be obedient, and he feels that he's being cursed in this life while he looks out at openly wicked men who are being prospered. What's his answer? When he went into the sanctuary of the Lord and saw the final end of the wicked, he realized that their earthly prosperity was not identical with heavenly blessing. That is a lesson that we learn right here in Genesis 10 when we look at the story of Nimrod, a mighty conqueror on the earth. He's a mighty hunter, yet he is not accounted as blessed of the Lord. And there's Canaan with that glorious land that is inherited. Yet it's not blessed of the Lord.

IV. God's unmerited favor.

One last thing we see. In verses 21-32 we see the line of Shem, and we learn there about God's unmerited favor. Even the line of Shem was not without sin. Abram came from a line of idolaters, so Abram was not loved because Abram was righteous. Abram was made righteous because he was loved of the Lord. Even in the line of Shem, God's unmerited favor rests on a particular line. But isn't it interesting that Shem and Japheth are linked here in verse 21? This again forecasts the calling of the Gentiles, when the Gentiles will again be linked with a line of Abram.

Now, even the line of Shem is subdivided. Shem is called here the father of all the children of Eber. That name is the root term for the name Hebrew. He is the father of the line which becomes the line of Abram. And so we see that to be in the line of God's favor is better than to have the power of the world, that goodness is better than greatness in the eyes of God.