Monday, January 23, 2012

Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 6

Genesis 6 (Link) moves us past the genealogy and back towards the narrative. The narrative is the story, really the flow of the story, in Scripture. Now, for us Southern folks, the word "story" needs some back up. Why? Because a portion of Southern English uses the word "story" to refer to an untruth. "Telling a lie" is also called "telling a story" around many of these parts, and we all are aware of the danger of believing "hunting stories" and "fishing stories."

The Biblical story, though, is not an untrue story. It's just that the word "story" describes what's the Bible contains: a series of events, told in a mostly logical and chronological order, that contains action and other elements. The other term that gets applied is "narrative" and the two are often interchangeable and are definitely used that way around this blog.

Genesis 5 wasn't much in the way of narrative. It's a list of deaths and births with the one interruption of Enoch being 'taken away' instead of dying. The previous installment of Through the Whole Bible looked at that chapter (link), so you can see my thoughts at that link.

This chapter begins with an oft-debated section about the "Sons of God" marrying the "daughters of men." Let's not rehash this discussion: you can find my opinion here if you want it. The basic matter is this: the people on earth are turned wholly against God. That's what drives the story forward. The wickedness of mankind.

With that in view, it grieves the heart of God that He made people. The last part of His Creation, the part that moved Genesis 1 from "good" to "very good," those people. It's a terrible thing, really.

So, God decides to bring judgment on this world and all the people in it at the time. Every last one of them. Except for Noah and his family, who find grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Note: that would be YHWH, the covenant name of God. See discussion here.) Please be aware that the word "favor" and the word "grace" in English are shades of the same Hebrew word. Noah has been more righteous than his surroundings, but it is still God's grace that is bestowed on him.

This bothers us when we read it. After all, has mankind really gotten bad enough to deserve this severe of a judgment? Really? It is one of the critiques of the God of the Bible that such a thing would be done and counted as righteous: men, women, children all killed in a worldwide flood.

Why, though, does that bother us? Specifically, why would it bother someone who counts man as just another animal, one more rung on the ladder of evolution? The species became endangered and then recovered (and some folks would find that part tragic, I know). What's the big deal?

The big deal is this: we see value in human life. That's part of what many people in America are raised with, even if they are raised without a Bible or without faith in God. What makes man valuable, though?

Selfishly, we might find someone valuable because of what they can do for us. We hate to see that child die who might cure cancer or AIDS. We hate to see that life lost that might have inspired peace. But are people really only worth what they can do for others? That pragmatism can turn lethal in a hurry.

People are not valuable because of what they can do for us. They are valuable intrinsically. Valuable because of what they are. Because of what you are. You are made in the image of God.

The evil and violence of Genesis 6 is what God sees and judges. People have begun to take on the habit of killing and destroying each other. That is what God is addressing. Does it seem over harsh? It does. It may be, yet there is not much to say for it. Noah and family can only raise so much food, provide for so many mouths.

It is highly important to grasp this reality as well: GOD BRINGS JUDGMENT. Later Scripture, such as Hebrews and 2 Peter, tell us that Noah strove to tell his world about God and turn them to right, but he does not raise his hand in judgment. IT IS NOT FOR MANKIND TO BRING TOTAL JUDGMENT: it is fitting to establish systems for the administration of case-by-case justice based on law. To strike out generally is not our job-that would be for God to do or not do.

In all, this chapter challenges us to consider a few things: what ill effects does sin have? What destruction comes, even to those who we consider innocent, because of sin?

Why do we value human life?

Just a few things to think about.


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