Posts Tagged ‘flood’

Genesis 11:

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves;

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.

Towers.  Sears Tower.  Empire State Building.  Big Ben.  Eiffel Tower.  Notre Dame.  the Sphinx.  Strata Tower.  Trump tower.  Symbols, all of them.  Symbols of luxury, of strength, of wit, of wealth.

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, whole communities were represented by towers.  People were represented by towers.  Sauron, Dark Lord, personified in the clunky, menacing gates and towers of Mordor.

The people of the Rohan, represented in the films by high fortresses atop high buttes, banners whipping viciously in the wind.  And the race of men, in the gleaming white towers of Gondor.

Even now, in our day, towers, and buildings represent so much more than the simple stones they are built from.  Buckingham Palace.  The White House.  Downing Street.

When the people settling in the plains of Shinar decide to build a tower, what do you think they are really doing?  When they agree- yes!  Let’s build a city, with a tower that reaches to the heaven’s…

Let us declare our power, our strength.  Let us build a strong tower, and people will see it on the horizon.  They will not harm us.  They will not threaten us.  We will be safe.  Maybe they even remembered collectively and culturally the devastation of the floods.  A tower- yes.  We will even be safe from floods.  Nothing will ever overwhelm us.

I’ve built some towers too.  Or at least I’ve tried.  Or at least I’ve imagined trying.  Or maybe I was just imagining they were towers.

I remember reading a great book some time back.  It was called The Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson.  One of the great liberators of that book was the notion that not all pain is bad.  Sometimes, God has to prune so that we can grow.  Sometimes, great big fluffy, beautiful green leaves actually prevent us from bearing fruit.  

Translation:  Sometimes the things we use and build to protect us, to keep us appearing strong are actually blocking us from what God wants for us.

What if the appearance of strength is preventing me from connecting with people?  What if “being strong” is preventing me from real, authentic living with other people in my life?  What if there are people in my life, put there by God to bring me through to the other side of something, and they can’t get through to me because of my tower?  My wall?  My whatever?

God comes down.  Again.  He came down before.  Do you remember?  He was looking to see what was going on in the Garden… He was looking for his ‘mates only to discover, uncover, turn the light onto the disaster of the Serpent’s lie and our own gullibility.

Whenever I read something like that- something that reminds me of something else I’ve read earlier, I ask myself: Is it considerable that this similarity is not an accident?  Not a coincidence?  It could be a deliberate reference.

Last time God came down, He was coming to commune, but He uncovered the sin.  He also set into action the plan to repair the Sin, to bridge the new gap.  He showed up.  He uncovered the lie.  He made a new way.

So this time, God comes down to see this tower.  But He recognizes the folly.  God despises the proud, but he lifts up the humble.  He has set in motion a path for His creation to be saved- but not like this.  Not by their strength.  Not by their wisdom.

They must not complete this tower.  They must not believe in their communal strength.  Even as one people, they must depend on God’s strength, search out His will and way.  Even as one people, they must humble themselves to God’s direction, so that His very best way can happen.  So He prunes.  And the people look at each other, confused.

Sometimes it seems destructive when God prunes.  I have certainly felt the pain of a sharp edge.  It was such a beautiful limb, such a full leaf.  Such delightful shade.  But God wanted fruit to grow, not the leaf.  Not the limb.  The limb and leaf were required to build the strength of the plant.  But now it’s time for the fruit.

What I need to do then is trust what I’ve learned about God: He is a repairing God who cherishes LIFE.  And He doesn’t change.  He is Holy.  He does not contradict Himself.  He deals with corruption, brokenness and un-Life.  So I am safe in His care.  He will not harm me.  He may prune me.  But he will not cut me off at the root.  Not if I am in His care.  Not if my fruit is His fruit.  He cherishes my LIFE and desires my fruit.  After all, He is a gardener.  He is a producer of LIFE.

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Genesis 9

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you…

15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

Can you imagine stepping off the ark?  After six months of water, water, everywhere, finally stepping down onto solid ground? If you’re in the Navy, or were, you might be able to envision this.  I would suggest though, that while similar, the experience is not exactly the same, because even though you were in the middle of the ocean, and there was no land in sight- you knew that somewhere out there, over the horizon there was land.  You were on your way somewhere.

The bible says that when Noah got off the boat, he made an altar and burned a sacrifice  to God, and that God was pleased by the aroma of the sacrifice.

Putting myself in Noah’s position, I wonder if there might be an element of fear- worry that if I somehow screwed up, this time I might not get the heads-up or the boat.  Worry that if I did something wrong, the rains might come back.  I’m not saying that the sacrifice was done fearfully- I’m guessing that it was done in a spirit of elation.  But down the road, after the first argument on dry-land, after the first mistruth between a husband and a wife, or a father and a son- then, would he wonder?

But God steps back into the picture, kneels down, and firmly promises:  Never again.  I solemnly swear [covenant] that you never need to fear the storm.  I will never again destroy all life by the flood.  The seasons will always come and go, and the sun shall always follow the rain.  And I will always remember.

And, he says, just to solidify your confidence in this promise, I will make a visible reminder- visible to me, and visible to you, to remind us both of this day.

God has reset the score.  The LIFE He created had been almost completely consumed and wrapped in the stench of dead-living.  So he cleaned the surface off again, and set the only righteous person he could find in the middle of it to start over again.  And he does!

Sort of.

Till the harvest.  And then he discovers the wonders of wine.  And gets himself so faced that he ends up naked on his couch.  Amazing?  Talks directly with God, and then heads straight for the first frat party he can find.  These are the people God talks with!

These are the people that God talks with.

1 of Noah’s 3 sons sees his skunked, naked dad, crashed out on the couch, and makes fun.  He calls brothers 2 and 3 over to get a gander.  But they decline, and choose instead to cover their dad, and go back to trying to forget the whole naked, 600 year old business.  When Noah wakes up from his “slumber” (read: passed out), he discovers what had happened and lays out a curse that would make a fisherman blush and cover his dainty ears.  And we see the Bible lay out an explanation for the beginnings of a conflict that would permeate the Persian culture forever.  We read about it now, every day.

Back in the garden, God made man in “his own image” and gave him authority over the earth.  Ideally, that was supposed to work in a more cooperative way.  God makes a ruling, man executes that ruling on earth, acting as God’s regent, bearing God’s image, and standing as God’s man on earth.  God vested man with that authority, with that power.  So when a blessing flows from a man, or a curse, it has certain degree of weight.  When Noah lays the curse on boy #1, and the blessings on boys #2 and #3, it has weight.  Just as Jesus declared thousands of years later- “what you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and what you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven…”  

What will I curse today?  What will I bless?  I haven’t feared God probably, like Noah might have, following the flood.  Maybe I should be more afraid.  But Jesus has come, and he has removed the need for me to fear.  Maybe that’s my evidence of salvation- I don’t really fear God because I have confidence that the blood of Jesus is enough for me.  But that doesn’t remove the fearful aspect of a Holy God in the presence of corruption.

But God delivered somebody from the flood.  And he continued to talk to him, even though Noah proved to be human (read: prone to sin).  And ultimately, God did this to reestablish LIFE- in contrast to the dead-living, death-wrapped “life” that covered the earth prior to the Great Flood.  God did this to fulfill his long-term promise to Eve in the Garden that somebody from her lineage would smash the serpent’s head.  And He promised that because God loves LIFE.  He loves being around LIFE.  He wants LIFE to spread and rise, and fill.  God loves LIFE.  And God keeps his word.  Always.  And it is to his pleasure.  His desire to see LIFE.

When the Man Comes Around

 

 

23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD

21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

The last chapter ends, rather dramatically, with state-of-the-planet statement:

23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock…

But God remembered Noah.  And he remembered all of the animals.  And the livestock.  I’ve been wrestling with the contrast- the very stark contrast- between the love and wrath of God for what he has made.  I’ve seen comments and such that show that I’m not the only one who struggles to reconcile what we learn about who God is in this account of this great, world-wide, culture destroying, LIFE erasing flood with the proposition that God is good.  That He is merciful.

I get that.

I don’t desire to make light of it- or to treat a global apocalypse as an opportunity to analogize and wax eloquent.  And it’s worth saying that the Bible is more than a moral guide- it’s a historical record.  So sometimes, finding the moral of the story is stretching the text beyond it’s limits, especially when done with a microscope and tweezers, as I’m doing right now, chapter by chapter.  But I still think there is a nugget in the pan- if we just shake it around a bit.  And look carefully.

In this case, I think it better to start at the end.  One of the most valuable lessons Genesis offers us is repeated here, again:  God cherishes LIFE.  He loves LIFE, watching it grow, and expand, and increase.  The chapter ends with God calling everything out of the ark, and sending it back out, repeating the same command (theologians refer to it as the Cultural Mandate) to “go out and multiply, fill the earth.”  God desires the expansion of LIFE.

Zombies and vampires.  Not dead, but- definitely not alive.  Vampires are by far, the more sophisticated of the two.  A classier bunch.  Zombies are all slobbery and falling apart, eating with their mouths open, and in general, terribly impolite.  Now, vampires, in MY experience, have much more panache.  They have style.  Nuance.  Subtlety.  They dress nicely.  They have rules.  They are immortal.  And yet, not alive.

We grasp that idea- animation apart from “life”.  Alive, but not.  Dead, but not.  I think it’s an awesome picture for how Sin interrupts LIFE.  God is LIFE.  Not in a pantheistic, all-living-things-are-divine kind of way.  More in a BOSUN particle kind of way.  More like a midi-chlorian kind of way.  The notion being that God is a source and sustainer of all that is and ever has been and ever will be.  LIFE.  More than living.  More than animation.  The ancients had another term: Shalom.

This is what sin does.  It fractures flawlessness.  It’s a disruption.  A drop of ink in pure water.

This is what the Great Flood was about.  God desired LIFE.  He created shalom.  The fracture, the disruption, the drop of ink in pure water made it impossible.  And then it grew, and grew.  A drop became a flood of it’s own, and soon, what was once LIFE was wrapped in stench.  It was the zombie- slobbering, chewing, tearing, groaning, self-feeding, destructive unalive.  That is what the flood purges.

And then it’s over.

But God remembered… His mercy had set one apart.  Noah.  Noah was set apart for God, so that He could fulfill the promise.  And when the stench was gone, and the aroma from Noah’s joyous sacrifice reached God, he was pleased!  Never again, God says, will I do what I have done.  LIFE is good, God says.  Sound familiar?  He looked at the work of His hands and said…

Life is so good, God says, that even though “every inclination of the human heart is evil- even from childhood” never again will the the whole earth be destroyed.

Though it is difficult to see, every inclination of my heart, apart from God’s Spirit, is evil.  And I have 4 children, so I can testify that it is passed on, and that it shows up early.  But God loves LIFE.  And He desires to see His LIFE in mine.  His shalom around me.  Not only that, but when He sees LIFE, when my living becomes His LIFE (Romans 12: “a living sacrifice), He is pleased.  And it makes Him giddy.  He starts getting all nostalgic and happy sounding.  How many times have we see God “pleased” by something to date?  It’s been good.  It’s even been very good.  But this is the first time He’s been “pleased.”  I want to please God, and see LIFE increase around me.

Maybe when the zombie-me is put down, the shalom-me can rise up.  Maybe that’s what the Bible means when it talks about freedom.  Free to cast off the zombie-me.  Free to rise up as the shalom-me that God created me for.

Can you find mercy in the flood?

Genesis 7

1 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”
5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

I get a very uncomfortable feeling when I read these words.  Do you?

I feel judged.  I feel like I’m living on someone else’s generosity a little bit.  I might even feel a little bit imposed upon.  I feel a little bit like God’s being a little harsh, a little unfair, and a tad bit- I don’t know- extreme.

Hmm.  A world wide flood, the promise of total annihilation.  Saving one family.  Yeah, that’s pretty extreme.  Maybe it’s okay for me to feel like that.  Maybe God is judging me.  Maybe I am living on somebody else’s generosity.  Maybe the penalty I’ve earned *is* kind of harsh.

When I look at this story through strictly human eyes, it’s difficult to feel anything but fear and anger.  God just killed potentially billions of people!  How in the world do you explain that to somebody?  How do you connect that with grace?  Or mercy?  Or compassion?

But if I look through eyes of faith, which are themselves a gift from God, I can say that everything I need to learn about God will align with what he reveals in Genesis:  He is a repairing God who promised Eve in the Garden to deliver to humanity a Savior.  And He will never contradict himself- He is Holy.  So I must say that there is a redemptive act hidden in this apparent atrocity.

God is judge.  The judged may feel squeamish about that fact, but it doesn’t change the fact.  He is Holy, and he judges every generation.

Tell me something: is there any place in your life, in your story, where you have been wronged?  Is there anything in your narrative that carries the sting of somebody’s sin and that mark will never totally disappear?
What if God didn’t care about that?

Would you be able to rely on a God who’s dispense of justice was … meh?  so-so?  Sometimes?  Most-of-the-time?  More often that not?

I want a God who is always judge, all of the time, and always delivers a verdict.  I will never see a sin against me or the people I love go undealt with.  Any God I’m going to respect will not give that a blind eye.

I think I have often taken the side of the people destroyed by the flood.  But for today, I want to take the side of Noah.  What if my entire generation scorned God?  We would be deserving of annihilation.  Except me.  What about me?  I’ve not scorned you?  In fact, because I’ve not scorned you, I’ve been scorned by everybody else!  They all think I’m some whack-job living in the sticks playing my banjo on the porch.  The world’s gone to hell in a very large handbasket, and I’m doing the best I can.  “God, are you going to lump me in with all of that corruption?”

But no.  God says, Noah, I have judged you as singularly righteous in your generation.  So build ye a boat.

I wonder how long it took Noah to build that thing?  I wonder how many of his neighbors clucked and tsk’d while he hammered away at that thing.

As God commands, Noah does.  I notice that Noah and his family spent seven whole days inside the ark before anything happened.  Seven days of wondering if they were crazy.  Seven days of “OH!  I think I left the stove on” and “but DAD?  I forgot my iPod!  Can I just run back and get it?  I’ll BE. RIGHT. BACK!”

Searching the mind of God is a dangerous and frightening prospect.  At least, while wrapped in my mortality it is.  I can’t possibly make sense of this.  But this I can:  God promised Eve a deliverer.  When the world was totally corrupted, God reached out and saved ONE person, ONE family, in order to keep that promise alive.  When the LIFE that is God’s is corrupted, action must be taken.  But God will never, ever, ever forsake the promise He made to Eve to deliver humanity from the serpent’s lie.  And that truth deserves to be clung to.  God preserves HIS promises.  God also deals with corruption.  Corruption diminishes what HE creates.  It diminishes the LIFE he imparts.  Corruption is a shot at God.  God shoots back.  Take comfort that He will always keep His promises.  Take comfort that he always deals with corruption in our lives.  And remember that ever act of purge, however violent it appears, is a step closer to completed deliverance.

Light, Knowledge, the Tree, Revelation, and into a strange land...

Genesis 6

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress[c] wood;

18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

The Flood.  Mythologized all over the world, in various isolated cultures.

And one of the biggest stumbling blocks to belief that I read, see, and hear about from people who struggle to understand God and grace.

It is a bit puzzling.  God?  Putting an “end to all people.”  Seems harsh.  But what I’ve done is I have decided to read and learn about God with a new set of eyes.  All I need to know about who God is, and why God does what God does will be utterly consistent with, and unwaveringly committed to, executing the promise in the Garden to deliver humanity from the serpent’s lie.  And He will do it in a way that absolutely does NOT compromise who God is.  He cannot contradict himself in action or in thought.

So the Flood meets these two criterion: It is in line with Himself as the source of LIFE, the picture of LIVING and the Law of the Universe.  And it moves humanity in the ultimate direction of deliverance.

So wiping the face of the earth spit-shine clean seems like an odd move.

When we first met God, he was overflowing with desire to see LIFE expand.  He created light, and though it was good, there was more to be had.  So he created the sky, and then he moved the waters apart so that dry land could appear, and then that was good too, but there was room for more life, so he cause the dirt to sprout and grow, and flower.  And that was good, but still, more LIFE was wanted.  So he filled the entire ocean and the whole sky with living animals, and that was pretty good too.  But more.  More life.  So he created lions, and dogs, and unicorns and (okay, okay, maybe!) frogs, and all sorts of awesome animals.  And that was good.  But He wanted even more LIFE.  So he created the human race.  In his image.  In his likeness.  And he animated it with his own LIFE.  So that it took on LIFE of it’s own.  And he immersed Himself in what He had made, because it was good.  He said to the man, “You are free to eat from any Tree, but you must NOT eat from this. one. tree.”  But they did.  They were indeed free, and they did not take some very good advice.  And now all of this LIFE, all of this goodness was flat busted.

And it just got worse and worse.

This was not what God had created.  This was what went wrong.  And that just doesn’t compute as the playground and zen-garden of a Holy God- no way could a perfect God enjoy this jacked up, messed up, whoring, mugging, killing place.

But He promised.  He promised to deliver someone who could fix it.  Someone who could live absolutely perfectly, and then in his absolute innocence, offer to pay for every corruption, every guilty moment in the entire universe.  He promised.  And perfect Gods don’t break promises.  Ever.

So someone must survive.

God shows mercy.  He destroys death.  And all around was living, breathing, moving, spreading death.  With every self-gratifying move, with every schemed deception, with every raised voice, death muddied the water, covered the surface, clouded the air.  It could not go on.  And so God shows mercy.  He calls out one.  Noah.  He calls out one who will follow.  And he washes the earth.  He washes, and washes and washes.

Noah had to know God.  He had to listen and hear, and obey.  He had to work.  He had to work and work and work.  And based on what?  What evidence did he have to build this theme-park sized “boat”?  He’d made enough money in his life to pay for all this- to pay for wood, to pay for workers.  He wasn’t stupid.  Oh, but his friends must have believed him so.  He’s a few bricks short of a pallet, they said.  But through his faith, a race was saved, and a Messiah could be born.

And God says to Noah- “I will establish my covenant with you.”  God, Holy God, creator, lowers himself to not only commune with Noah, but God, Holy God, creator, binds himself into a promise with this…. man.  Mercy.

And “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

So my lesson?  God is God.  He is not able to commune with sin.  Simple.  And sometimes that means catastrophic purge.  But there is always a voice somewhere telling me to build my boat- do it his way.  And his covenant always remains- not just to me, but to David, to Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and Noah, and Adam.  And that’s at the core of every chastening, every purging of evil, every rigorous scrubbing my heart receives.  And at the end?  A shiny, clean, brand new me.