Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 3
What I read today: Genesis 6-8.
What jumped out: Genesis 6: 5-8, “But the Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind had become great on the earth. Every inclination of the thoughts of their minds was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.
Random thoughts about what I read:
I had a friend in seminary who was studying in the Biblical Counseling program. I was usually interested in what he was learning and one day he casually mentioned that a professor said in class that whenever someone was struggling with God and/or considering walking away from their faith, the root cause was usually in some sort of pain. Mostly emotional, could be physical, or whatever, but you could usually trace it back to a painful incident.
We ping-ponged this back and forth for a bit and he asked me to define a few times in my past that caused me some degree of pain. So, I chose the two that I’ve mentioned several times before here at the Diner: The death of my father when I was 13 and the break-up with my high school girlfriend at age 18.
The death of my father made me sad. I didn’t take it personally, though. I mean, it’s not like he intended to have a massive heart attack and die suddenly. Because I’m not explosive with my emotions, I chose “cold war” with God: Just stay on your side of the universe and I’ll stay on mine. I stopped praying, going to church, etc. for about 3 years in that time.
The girlfriend breaking up with me made me angry. Granted, anger tends to be one of the major chinks in my spiritual armor, but this was different. The most fascinating girl I’d ever met (at that stage of my life, anyway) didn’t want me. This was rejection of her choosing, and it caused all sorts of calculated “nuclear war” verbal “surgical strikes” at her expense (yes, I’ve since apologized and, as I’d hoped, things turned out for the better for both of us in the long run). After that I went all Solomon in my spiritual journey at that point and decided to go exploring. A college fraternity life provides opportunity to go all Solomon in your spiritual journey, too.
So, at least in my experience the “pain” in my life led to some degree of walking away from my faith…albeit temporary and comparatively short-term…a walking away nonetheless.
Which is why I’m so fascinated with the statements about both God and Noah in this passage.
See, the Net.Bible (which I love) translates God’s reaction to the “great wickedness of humankind” and the outward expression of “every inclination of their thoughts was on evil all the time” as “offended.” I’m not sure that’s as accurate as the NASB’s translation of “grieved in His heart.” The Hebrew word used there ties in a lot of emotion: experiencing emotional pain, regret, injury, embarrassment, even depression.
God had pain. Our God created us in His image. I’m drawn to a God who feels.
Noah had found favor from God. Says later he walked with God…was blameless (not sinless, mind you). And I’d imagine that a a man living in an intensely depraved culture would have a great deal of pain from the disappointment and alienation he’d experience living so counter-culture.
He could’ve easily walked away from his faith. But he didn’t. He stood firm in the face of a culture decidedly pro-self-indulgent.
Even after the Great Flood (of which you can get bogged down in the capacity of the ark and/or it’s ability to house a certain number of baby animals if you want, or even the nature of such a flood and where all the water came from if you want, but I want you to remember the Bible is accurate, but not a scientific textbook), where Noah likely saw his contemporaries die and a world completely changed before his very eyes, he came off the ark and he worshipped God. During that time he had a lot of time to feel all sorts of pains and experience all sorts of questions about God. Yet, he worshipped. (Yes, like all of us, he’ll deal with the pain a bit later–see tomorrow’s entry).
He was obedient and faithful in a world where those were not prized attributes.
And if we look at the Bible in sum, we see a lot of times where the masses walk away from God and there’s a faithful remnant. Just standing firm. Trusting God with the various pains and struggles of their lives even when the rest of the world follows their own desires.
Granted, I live in the Bible Belt and I hardly think that the generation & culture I live in is as depraved as the earth during Noah’s time…or 1st century Ephesus…or during the Crusades or The Inquisition…or even the Roaring 20’s or Las Vegas.
But I still want to find favor with the Lord…even with the disappointments of unrealistic expectations and misplaced dependencies that come into my daily life. And I still want to cultivate a heart that detests evil and grieves in my heart for a world that’s pro-self-indulgent…especially in my own pro-self-indulgent life.
That’s my prayer today.
(Tomorrow’s reading: Genesis 9-11)