In this third installment of our Long Story Short series we explore what the overall narrative of the Bible is as it relates to our Covenant with God, and the Kingdom ways we’re called to live here on earth. Today, we look at the story of the Flood through the lens of the cross finding that there’s a new lesson about God’s character and God’s posture to us when we sin. Greg ends with one practical way we can live out our covenant to God inspired by this passage: by caring for the earth and all it’s inhabitants.
The passage today is the story of the Great Flood, or in your favorite kids’ bible it’s called, “Noah and the Ark”. There are a lot of nerdy questions we could ask about this narrative of the being earth flooded when mankind was so evil that God released the waters. Questions like: Was it a regional event? Could all species of animals fit on the ark? How can a loving God do something so evil? But, Greg doesn’t spend a lot of time on these except to say that it’s quite likely that the author used cosmically large terms to make a cosmically large point and the point isn’t that when you walk with God you better be ready for some rain, but that God’s posture and God’s character are more beautiful than we could ever imagine!
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
“Wickedness” in this passage means humankind had descended deeper and deeper into sinful ways of relating to each other and the animals of the earth. They were no longer reflecting the love of God or reflecting the love in our covenant with him — they were only living for themselves — as a result, the earth was filled with violence and chaos.
“God regretted” is “Asha” in Hebrew and it literally means “the kind of pain experienced by a woman in labor”. God looked upon the earth and the relationships on the heart and actually felt an immense amount of pain. This is important to us because it points the the character of God.
Oftentimes, we think of this story and reflect on the judgment of God and we believe that God is angry and capricious. In fact, it was common in Ancient Near East writing to highlight the anger and violence of a deity. This destruction by flood narrative is one of many at this time, but the big difference is that in the Bible’s narrative, Yawheh is a God who feels pain at the start of the world.
God’s posture to us when we sin
We all sin and we often wonder what God really feels about us. We can find part of the answer in this story. When we look at it through the lens of the cross, we see that God is a God who respects our free will, who is merciful to hold back the consequences of our sin (for a time), and when we’ve chosen that sin over and over again, he allows us to suffer the consequences of that sin. We see this reinforced in Romans 1:18-28, over and over again the passage says, “God gave them over” to these sinful ways. God’s character is not one of judgment and anger, but of grief and unrelenting hope. We see this in the cross: Jesus forgave despite his torture. Even Jesus on his way into Jerusalem wept over the sin of the city that would cause it to fall (Luke 19). God’s character is one of humility, a willingness to “stoop” to our level. This is why the account of the flood is similar to other narratives — people conceptualized their gods in certain ways, and God allowed himself to be conceptualized in violent language, but still his love and willingness to suffer surfaces in the narrative. The primary differences are the character traits that leads us to believe in the non-violent, non-coercive love of God.
God’s mandate to us
Greg concludes his sermon by addressing our responsibility over the earth and the animal kingdom. Caring for the earth and it’s inhabitants is not just some liberal, political, or “tree hugger” idea: This is our first mandate, and it has never been retracted. In Genesis 1 God creates all of the animals, is pleased with his creation, and then puts humans in charge of them. We can then read in Genesis 8:1- “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.”
Along with Noah and his family, God remembered the animals, too.
If we don’t believe caring for animals and the environment is a big deal, we must understand, that is because we have been conditioned to believe that it’s not a big deal. We are conditioned to be apathetic towards animals, unless they suit us to be our pets. We especially see livestock as more of a product to be consumed only to better our own lives. Greg goes on to describe the terrible, unnatural conditions of many industrial farms and submits to us that each and every one of us has a God-given responsibility to learn how what we eat ends up on our plate. What kind of suffering did this animal go through? The point is not that we as humans, as Christians, should not eat meat or dairy, but that it is up to us to ensure all life is treated humanely. You can’t determine what the world as a whole is going to do, but you can determine what you’re going to do: care, and open your heart for the well-being of animals.
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