Posts Tagged ‘Noah’

Genesis 48

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
   “May the God before whom my fathers 
  
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,

the God who has been my shepherd 
  
all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm 
  
   —may he bless these boys.

May they be called by my name 
  
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, 
and may they increase greatly 
  
on the earth.”

Genesis is a beginning.  Literally.  Genesis opens with the phrase “In the beginning,” or “At first.”  But as is often the case the beginning is … just the first thing in a series of many things.  So Genesis is a beginning, and it’s a journey- a middle.

We’ve met lots of people- Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Lot, Lot’s daughters, Isaac, Isaac’s servant, Jacob, Esau, Laban, Rachel, Leah, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, (and Tamar), Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.  We’ve met Potipher, the Egyptian Royal captain, and his cougar-wife.  We’ve met a royal baker, and a royal cup-bearer.  Pharaoh himself.  But he’s not the first king- we’ve also met the mysterious Malchizekek.

But we’ve also met somebody else.  Creator God, who speaks and creates, and hovers over unformed things.  Creator God who builds and creates and proliferates LIFE.  God, who walks in the garden in the cool of the afternoon relishing what He finds to be very good.  An all-powerful God who creates a community to spend time with, and enjoy.  An all powerful God who makes us free to love Him back, or … not.

The God who sews garments to cover up something He made good, because of the fear that sin created.  The God who, when disobeyed, rather than retaliate and answer in wrath, promises to set things right, and keeps things from getting any worse.  The angel with the sword flashing back and forth between us and the Garden of Eden.

We meet his presence in angels- messengers.  Messengers who come to break through the barriers and communicate God’s promises, over and over.  Despite rebellion.  Despite disbelief.

And we meet God, a shepherd.

As Israel lays in his bed, he places himself in the role of a sheep- and tells Joseph that God has been his shepherd.

After all the things Israel has experienced, after all the different ways He has experienced God, and God’s presence in his life, this is how he describes God.  A shepherd.

The lasting words of God reverberate in that description: I will be with you.

God is introducing himself to you, right now, today.  Not as somebody who will shepherd you.  But as somebody who always has.  God is a shepherd.  He is guiding you to safe places to lie down.  He is choosing ripe, green grass for you.  He finds a place where you can wade in the water and drink without fear of predators, without fear of drowning.  You may wander out of sight, and get lost, get stuck, get tired.  But he is the Good Shepherd and He will come out, leaving the flock to find you.  You will hear his voice, and call to him, and he will pull you from the mud, pull you from the briar- and return you on his shoulders to where you are safe.

This is the God of Genesis.  He’s a fixer.  He’s a lookout.  He’s a shepherd.

Advertisements

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?

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.