Friday, February 1, 2013
In Search Of Truth, Genesis 6:5-13
It's a very dark time being described here. As horrible as our world may seem at times, the influence of Christ and his words can be seen almost everywhere. Not so here, in the early days of humanity, when God allowed humans to do what they wished without guiding or regulating them as a whole. The result in man was that "every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually".
We may sometimes cringe at the idea of a wrathful God. But imagine a world where everyone thought, planned and carried out evil upon each other at every opportunity. Imagine being a small child, an innocent victim in that world, and the idea of a just and wrathful God may seem a little more appropriate.
If God looked on this situation, saw those being harmed by it, and said, "I don't think I should be judgmental. They should just be free to do what they want," we would not call him good, or loving or fair. But God IS good, loving and fair (or more accurately, "just"). So God intervened. Without resorting to mind-control or puppeteering, preserving freedom of choice, God gave the human race as a whole another opportunity to be restored to what we were meant to be: beautiful reflections of God himself.
The Bible says that Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation, and that he walked with God. The Hebrew word used here for "righteous" is "tsaddiyq" and generally means "just". We don't use the word "just" very often, so that in itself is worth unpacking.
Someone who is "just" is guided by reason, justice and fairness. They act based on what is right, lawful or truthful. They live in accordance with what is required of them by law.
As far as we know, God had not given any formal, universal law to humanity during or before this time in Noah's life, but we do know that everyone since the beginning of the world has had enough knowledge at some point in their lives to decide whether or not to pursue truth, which leads to God, or supress it. (Romans 1:18-21 and 2:14-15)
So Noah was a person who pursued obedience of God and endeavored to see the world and his own life the way God does. He lived his life in connection with God.
This doesn't mean he was sinless. Even humans that the Bible calls "righteous" still sin. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) But no one living in Noah's time pointed blame at him.
The Hebrew word for "flesh" in these verses refers to created, physical life in general, as contrasted with God. The corruption that began with humanity resulted in all life being corrupted in some way. It may seem odd to us that God would wipe out animal life in addition to human life. After all, God could have simply engineered a plague specific to human biology, allowing the animal world to remain untouched. So why didn't he?
To be honest, I'm open to suggestions. But if I had to guess I'd say it has something to do with God's holiness (his complete "otherness", perfection and separation from anything remotely evil) and humanity's intended role of stewards and rulers of creation. (Genesis 1:26)
God's holiness is hard to grasp because it's so closely linked to his perfection, which we can only conceptualize in theory. When we become uncomfortable with the "judgmental" nature of God, it's because we aren't accurately thinking about his holiness.
Although it's not a topic we'll dive into right now, God's holiness is a topic we'll probably come back to often and explore much more deeply as we take this tour through parts of the Old Testament and try to understand more about this strange, amazing and wonderful God we serve.
Next time we'll look at the idea of "clean" and "unclean" animals, examine another sacrifice and define "covenants".