Posts Tagged ‘sin’

 

 

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?

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Genesis 4

Have you ever felt like you were doing everything right and still taking a pounding?

I think anytime I get in a “habit” in my my quest for nearer-to-spirititual-life I start to feel like that.  I start thinking that I’ve invested, I’ve sacrificed, I’ve DONE-MY-PART.

Uh-oh.  Ohsureyabetcha.  That’s gonna go bad.  Why?

Can you imagine being part of the “first family”?  Parents always talking about the good ol’ days, when God walked in the garden, before “the day,” back when life was easy?  Telling us about how good it was, and how badly they messed it up?  “And now, we work,” they’d always finish.  And then it was back to washing dishes, or cleaning up under the table- vacuuming up the cheerios.

I imagine that Cain and Abel, the first sons, heard plenty about the Garden, plenty about God, and plenty about how disobedience can have long-term consequences.  I imagine that just like you and me, Adam and Eve did the “best they could with what they had,” raising their boys to know God and His way.  And maybe the boys even picked up some good habits.  It seems that they had developed an idea that sacrifice and worship were a good idea.  But I have to wonder if maybe the rituals for God- the religion, had taken over for Cain, leaving just a husk of what had begun as a relationship with God.

It’s always been a little unsettling that God would accept Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s.  I’ve read a couple of possible explanations; maybe Cain’s attitude, as intoned above, was out of place.  Maybe Cain’s offering was more self-centered than it appeared, and Abel’s was more “from-the-heart.”  Another explanation I’ve heard is that Abel’s was a blood sacrifice, and thus better suited to atone for sin than fruits and vegetables.  Who knows?  Long to short, God accepts and blesses Abel’s offering, and Cain’s is, for reasons not-given, rejected.  Cain lures his brother away from camp, and kills him in a jealous fit.

And THIS is where the excitement begins.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my habit in the past has been to focus on Cain and Abel.  Or to focus on possible explanations for why God accepted one and not the other.    Or to wax upon the words of God to Cain to master the sin crouching at the door.  Sounds like a lesson on overcoming temptation.

But get this:  Cain just murdered his blood-brother.  Period.  Brained him with a rock in a field and left him there.  We’re talking CSI here.  And God’s response?  He comes to investigate for the one left behind.

God watches over us.  Come what may, Justice is not forgotten.  But it would appear that God has a soft spot for due-process.  He requests the truth from Cain.  I have to wonder what God would have said if Cain had just come clean.  But he didn’t so I won’t spend any more time on it.

“What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

This is the voice of God.  LIsten!  He pronounces Cain’s future.  I wonder- I hear God, not condemning, but explaining the ramifications for brokenness.

I hear people condemn God- “How could a loving God allow this to happen?”  I don’t blame them.  Maybe if I experienced more of the evils of our world I’d be asking that question too.  But for now, I can say I’m satisfied to say that God is good, and that the evils of our world are self-inflicted; consequences of our races’ disobedience to God’s order.  That God restrains what naturally follows from corruption.  That God seeks justice for those who have been crushed.  And that God’s mercy is not simply for the oppressed, or the crushed, or the marginalized.  God’s mercy is for all people.  God shows Abel mercy by seeking justice for his death.  But God also shows Cain mercy, by coming to him not to cast him away, not to return his violence on him, but to make clear to Cain that he has brought his lonely future upon himself!

And Cain says?

“My punishment is more than I can bear!  Today you are driving me from the land  (remember Cain is a farmer*), and I will be hidden from your presence…” but the Lord said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  Then the Lord put a mark on Cain…”

So even in his chastening, the Lord has sworn to watch and protect Cain.  And, it says, Cain left the Lord’s presence.  I wonder, maybe, if that is a statement about Cain’s leaving more than it might be about the Lord’s abandonment.  Just thinking “out loud” there.

When I read this passage, I see a beautifully created order, fouled by disobedience, and set on a twisted path.  Jealousy, discontent, and misunderstanding corrupt our relationships.  God seeks to repair those misaligned relationships.  And God pronounces truth.  When His order is broken, the results are disastrous.  But God’s mercy is continuing and he does not leave us to ourselves no matter how badly we’ve complicated the situation.  He is looking for us, telling us our lives, and showing us the truths of it.  Sin corrupts- it jacks up everything.  But God’s mark is on his people.  All of them.  Who exactly do you think he’s protecting Cain from?