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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Genesis 6-12

Reading: Genesis Chapter 6-12

Sorry about the delay updating, I have been moving house.

These chapters are a reminder of how proud and stupid man can be at times. In chapter 6 the Lord despairs of mankind and decides to destroy it, save one man and his family. In chapter 7 he sends a great flood to destroy all living things but those in the ark. Note though that even in his anger God made sure that a pair of every species was included in the ark, that none should become extinct. In chapters 8-9 he remembers His creatures, rescues them and makes a new covenant with them. Chapters 10-12 offers lessons in history, and the humbling story of the Tower of Babel.

Let's look at the flood a bit more closely.
"the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence" (Genesis 6:11).
God was displeased with His creation, so he delivered judgement in the form of a flood.

" 17 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive." (emphasis mine)

God's commands to Noah concerning the ark are interesting. It is obvious He considered no species surplus or unimportant enough that He was willing to let it perish. Can you imagine then how God must feel about all the species we have allowed to become exinct? The modern day ark that is the conservation movement is a very leaky one indeed. Rather than saving all species it often focuses its resources on saving the 'cute', 'cuddly' and the 'useful'. This is, of course, due at least partly to a chronic lack of resources; but it is also due to a lack of will. If the public cared for creation like most care for their bank balances, the future of many species would not look so dim.

After the flood has covered the earth for 150 days "God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark."(8:1) He makes the waters recede and Noah offers him burnt offerings.
"21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
22 “While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.” "

With this promise God has established the natural laws. He will not destroy every living thing or curse the ground for man's sake again. Also, the natural cycles of the seasons, days, temperatures and planting times are now to never cease.

Animals are now given to man as food and God makes a covenant with "you, and your descendants after you, and with every living creature with you".
11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. "

It is important to note that this covenant was made not only with man but with all living things. As Redeeming Creation** says "An understanding of this covenant is of more than historical or theological interest. It is foundational to understanding an authentic value for life that God has placed in the world, and of his determination to preserve it."(p74)

What does this mean today?
The following quote from the website of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change*** (ARRCC) (this website is well worth a look!) is useful in discovering the importance of the story of the ark in relation to today's world.

"The story of Noah's flood is common to Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. It is a story of divine punishment of humans for their wickedness and depravity in the form of an enormous flood. God saved only Noah (a righteous man) and his family, and pairs of all the animals on earth. They took refuge in an ark which Noah had built, while the waters rose around them. The symbolism of Noah's flood seems very appropriate, given that our sea levels are rising and may rise further as global warming causes Arrcctic ice shelves to melt. But more than this, the ark is a reminder of God's covenant with the ancient Israelites. The Israelites understood that God's relationship with them also included the natural world. The Israelites were to act justly with each other and to steward the land. If they did not, then their wrongdoing was manifest in environmental disaster - such as droughts and floods. The whole earth suffered the consequences of human action.

After the waters subsided, God promised never again to cause such a flood. It is not God who is causing the problem of climate change - it is humanity failing in our responsibilities to each other and to all creation."

Peter Illyn in his blog DeepGreenCoversation**** sums up how the chapters of Genesis we have read so far make the case for protecting species:
"The theology for protecting species is unambiguous: Plants and animals have an inherent right to be fruitful and to thrive as God has commanded them. In Genesis alone, we read that God created the different species and called them good. God blessed them and told them to fill the earth. God protected the different species by bringing them to the Ark. And lastly, God covenanted with Noah and “with all life on earth for all generations to come” (Genesis 9:12)."

Question for thought:
As the church, do we have a responsibility to provide an ark for the forgotten species?

**Redeeming Creation: The Biblical Basis for Environmental Stewardship by Fred Van Dyke, Davic C. Mahan, Joseph K. Sheldon and Raymond H. Brand, published by InterVarsity Press in Downers Grove Illinois 1996

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Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+