Sabbath Reflection for Friday, November 28 (’14)
These chapters present a dual theme of pronouncement and provision that run throughout the Scriptures to highlight the sheer holiness and justice of our God and King. It is vital to remember both holiness and justice, too, for it is his holiness that allows him not to act like us (cf. Hosea 11:9) and it is his justice that ensures he will act upon us, either for our good or for our bad depending on how we react to the promise.
Off we go, then, to Genesis 6:5 (though you might want to read the whole chapter prior to continuing….)
The LORD (“Yahweh”) saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
“Man’s heart is evil only continually”.
That’s not the greatest beginning. If it was coming from a politician, we might laugh. Irony is alive and well, after all, any time politicians speak. If it came from a child or teen—even an adult—we may pass off the judgment as opinion, no more permanent than our fashion line.
This judgment comes from Yahweh, however, the Lord and Maker of all that is. We need reminding this is the same Yahweh who told us what this name means in Exodus 34:6-9:
“The LORD (“Yahweh”), the LORD (“Yahweh”), a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
- Slow to anger
- Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness
- Keeping steadfast love to thousands
- Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin
- Never clearing the guilty
- Visiting the sin of fathers upon their children to several generations
Leaving aside for another post (what a tease, I know) how he can be merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in covenant love, keeping that love for thousands of generations, forgiving sin and transgression and iniquity, and yet also not clearing the guilty, it is significant that it is this Yahweh and not one of us who declares in Genesis 6:5:
“Man’s heart is evil only continually”.
If this is his pronouncement, we’re in real trouble. Sure thing, too, for in the next few verses, he tells us he’s going to wipe us all out—except for one man (Noah) whom he has chosen to save, along with his family.
Here we get Yahweh’s pronouncement about the Race. A few verses later (in Noah) we see Yahweh’s provision. Or you can call it his “exception” or “grace” or “kindness” or “plan.” Doesn’t matter to me so long as you see the two strands of thought side-by-side, for together they set a trajectory of how God operates in human history: he declares and he saves, he pronounces and provides, and both are side-by-side forever.
Here the Judge gives his verdict and punishment. In two ways, death shall come sooner rather than later. First, God decreases man’s general lifespan from what it was. It varied, but sometimes was many hundreds of years while he shrinks it down to only 120 years in Genesis 6. The last World War 1 American Doughboy died in 2011. He didn’t quite make the 120 mark. These verses tell us why: because we are so evil, God’s spirit “shall not abide in man forever” (6:3). Second, because man’s heart is only evil continually, Yahweh will flood the whole earth. In two ways, then, Man’s lifespan is greatly diminished: natural death and unnatural judgment. This ought to be a warning to us as well: we’re certainly going to die, either “before our time” or at a ripe old age. The fact that our heart is only evil continually should lead us to look for a way out of what meets us in Thereafter.
With this two-fold death in mind, it should come as no surprise that Man’s act of building Babel decades later in Genesis 11 is a desire to overthrow God’s kingdom in favor of their own. As one friend reminds me, “The heart is the main thing in religion.” Their hearts are desperate to make a prideful name for themselves as their lives pass faster and faster before their eyes. They believe—insanely—that a city and a tower will give them a Name to be feared and lives that will last: “…let us make a name for ourselves.” Problems with this assumption, however:
- Yahweh’s name alone should be feared (Ps 34), especially after the whole “Flood thing” they were still talking about.
- Human names are not to be feared, for no man can kill both body and spirit (Luke 12:5).
- Yahweh controls life, and has power to extend it (Genesis 5:21-24 gives the first account of a man not having to die) or end it (see Genesis 6:3 again).
- We cannot control our own lives and cannot extend it even an hour by any of our efforts (Luke 12:22-31), and cannot truly end it by any efforts towards suicide (we can only kill the body, but it will be resurrected one day) (cf. Heb 9:27 with 2 Cor 5:10 and Rom 6:1-8).
Even in Babel, Yahweh’s pronouncement in 11:7 (“…let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech“) is both justice and provision for them, for he continues giving them life when they have earned only death for their clear and plain act of rebellion against his Lordship. Basically, they spit in his face.
If it’s crazy to tug on the mask of the old Lone Ranger, what do you call it when you give God the middle finger?
Now…It’s Up To You What Happens Next
Don’t we do the same? Don’t we fight against anything that threatens to take our fickle and short lives, our sense of personal worth, or dignity and pride? Isn’t it insane, then, to rebel against the Lord of life when he offers a never-ending life in place of one limited by a calendar and current events and fickle moods? Don’t be crazy. Turn to him for refuge and shelter. For those who refuse, bad will come. For those who repent and embrace Him and His provision, good will come.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Says he:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, we implore you to transform us more and more into the kind of people who hate our sin, grieve our sin, and want to stop our sin. Transform us into the kind of people who love who you are, celebrate your provision for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and strive for holiness without which we know we will not see you. Grant us these changes for your infinite glory and majesty, Amen.