The God of Life is Unchanging

After having destroyed all of the rebellious people on the face of the earth in the days of Noah, God says something that at first perplexed me.  He states that He will never again cause total destruction on the face of the earth because of man, for (read: because) the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.  Doesn’t that seem illogical?  As a parent, I confess, I have used the “If you try that again, I will be right here to deliver the same consequence–do you hear me?” strategy.  I always thought that was the epitome of consistency.  Here, however, God shows His hand.  He does not threaten.  He knows that the human heart is full of evil, not righteousness.  Total destruction is merited, but God declares that He will withhold the weight of His righteous judgment.  He offers the enduring picture of grace instead of a power-struggle.  God doesn’t struggle for power; He is the Almighty.

We have already seen how God blessed Adam and Eve at the creation.  God is unchanging.  Look at His interaction with Noah and his extended family.  God also blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  God gives life and commands us to live that life.  When the floodwaters receded, God promised Noah’s descendants that, despite the wickedness of man’s heart, He would not utterly remove humankind from the earth again.  However, the rebellious soul should fear the eternal removal of God’s very goodness as he embraces the the vast darkness of Satan.  Satan, after all, delights in death, not in life.

“Then Noah built and altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.  Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’

“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.'”  – Genesis 8:20-9:1

The God of Life is Grieved by Godlessness

God had only ever given good gifts – compassion, empowerment, mercy, truth, unity, and life, among others – to the men and women on earth, but there came a time of such great revolt against holiness that wickedness flooded the earth.  Yes, before the waters of judgment overcame them, the the people had already drowned themselves in a flood of godlessness.  Their desire was for the things of death, and the God of Life was grieved by this.

How do you react in grief?  There are a number of common emotions people generally have while grieving, but God is not like us.  He doesn’t react with emotions.  He responds with righteousness.  You see, while we like to think we can declare what is fair, God designed Justice.  When wickedness is the desire of the people, the Lord’s grief is deeper than any heartbreak we can know, and His actions are more pure than anything we are capable of.  His destruction is not a fit.  That is how sinful man reacts.  His judgment is just, and the judgment that destroyed the wicked during Noah’s time is a merciful caution for us today.

“The Lord 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.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them’  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  – Genesis 6:5-8

The God of Life is Compassionate

Cain’s life can be almost painful to read.  Have you ever read a report of someone that is so shameful, and yet they are so unaware of their shame, that you just have to wince for them?  This is one way to read the saga of Cain.  After murdering his brother, Cain responds to God Himself with what seems, at best, a rude and deceitful response.  He spoke this way to the Creator God.  This might be where I winced.  When God approached Cain’s parents, Adam and Eve, after they first sinned, God asked them where they were, and they at least answered honestly and feared the Lord their God.

What is quite amazing is that God does not smite Cain right then and there.  No, in fact, he uses this train-wreck of an interaction to teach Cain about the just actions He (God) must take to discipline him (Cain).  God tells Cain that the earth would no longer provide him with food.  And Cain’s response to this is that God has been too harsh.  Can you imagine talking back to a judge in a court of law this way?  Wince again over here.  And he goes on.  Now, Cain claims, he will be killed as he wander about.  Clearly he does not wish for himself what he did to his brother.

Now God, in His incredible compassion, says no.  No, Cain, you who killed your own brother will not be killed at the hands of another.  Here is where my self-righteous wincing changes to the sinking of my heart as I realize I am just as brazen as this fool named Cain, and God has had compassion on me, too.

“Then the Lord said, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’  He said, ‘ I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’  And the Lord said, ‘What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.  And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.  You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’  Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden.  I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’  Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so!  If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’  And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.  Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”  – Genesis 4:9-16

The God of Life is Empowering

God gave the blessing of two sons to Adam and Eve–first Cain, then Abel.  Both brothers made an offering to the Lord, but the Lord only found Abel’s pleasing.  The text shows that God, in His wisdom and understanding of Cain’s heart, spoke to him, instructing Cain that his shortcoming in the offering didn’t have to turn into bitterness and revenge.  God empowered Cain to stand firm, humble and obedient, fleeing from Satan’s newest ploy to ensnare him (Cain) in the web of death.  God instructed Adam to rule over the animals of the Earth, and here God tells Cain to rule over the sinful impulses that desire to destroy him.

Unfortunately, Cain did not heed the Lord’s caution.  Instead of ruling over sin, he was ruled by violence and killed his brother, likely believing Satan’s second-oldest lie–that killing another person will better one’s own standing.

“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.  So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.  The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?’  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’ “Cain spoke to Abel his brother.  And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” – Genesis 4:4b-8

The God of Life is Merciful

God gave mankind literally everything, except that one tree.  God spoke truth when He told Adam that he would die if he ate of or touched it.  The man and his wife had taken the whole world of blessing that God had given them freely, and exchanged it for one big fat lie.  Not only did they not become like God when they obeyed His enemy, but they became broken images of their Father, suffering in ways they never had before under the Creator’s care.

Even considering this great betrayal, God showed them mercy.  How?  Before God pronounces the consequence of their sin to Adam and Eve, God addresses the Great Deceiver:

“The Lord God said to the serpent;

‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.  I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;  he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’’ -Genesis 3:14

God shows mercy by making Satan the greater curse.  Adam and Eve were still sentenced to expulsion from God’s garden and eventual death after great suffering, but he did not turn His full wrath against their full rebellion.  He had mercy on them to give them time.  Time for what?  The same thing He still gives us time for today – repentance.

The God of Life Speaks Truth

God speaks truth.  Satan speaks lies.  The wickedness of Satan is so vile because he strikes an accusatory blow at God’s own character right out of the gate.  He misdirects the man and the woman with blatant falsehood.  When the woman corrects him, as he may well have expected, he begins the seduction.  What God has told you isn’t true, he interjects. In fact, what God says will cause you harm will actually give you what God has, which obviously is better than what you currently have.

Essentially, Satan frames God as a liar and a hoarder of good gifts.  This devastating scene shows us the deadliness of Satan’s intent – pitting man and woman against the God who loves them and has given them everything.  Satan leads us to believe that God’s way actually keeps blessing from us, and he promises that we can trust him (Satan) to give us the better deal.  Beware, my friend.  Satan is not benevolent.  His joy is your captivity. His pride is in making you think how bright you are as you enter into his snare.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the filed that the Lord God had made.

‘He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’  And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’  But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

Genesis 3:1-7  ESV