Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Noah: A rest for the people of God

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died...When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died. After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth...

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Genesis 5:3-5, 28-32, & 6:5-8

If you take a closer look at Genesis chapter five you will find that for nearly 30 verses the genealogy record follows the same pattern. Check out the example above. It says that Adam had other sons and daughters but only Seth is named and only his family line is followed. This pattern is of only following one son's line is repeated until verse 32 where the genealogy not only stops with Noah but also names all three of his sons. Now I know that genealogies aren't very interesting to us today, but this is meaningful. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire this genealogy to be written this way? It all goes back to God's promise in Genesis 3 to send a deliverer who will crush the Devil. This promised deliverer will come from Eve's descendants. So this genealogy doesn't give the names of all the children because it isn't giving us a detailed record of all mankind; it is giving us the genealogical record that leads to the promised one. It ends with Noah and it explains to us that Noah's name (which means "rest") was given to him by his father in hope that Noah would relieve humanity from the curse God placed on the ground. All of this begs the question "Is Noah the promised one?"

Even though we know that Christ is the promised one, it is important for us to read the text the way it would have been received by its first readers. The Lord unfolded history in this way for a reason. Noah foreshadows aspects of Christ's character and mission. In doing so he helps us to understand our Lord better. As we study Noah we see faint glimpses of the glory that is to come in Christ, and we find shortcomings that highlight's Christ's surpassing greatness and perfection.

After Noah is introduced, we learn that humanity has grown worse. Scripture tells us that mankind is so wicked that God is grieved that He had made us at all. It even goes so far as to say that "His heart was filled with pain." This is a damning indictment of our sinfulness. We are utterly wicked. But there is something else that is important for us take note of. God is grieved by their actions. How you live your life affects God. You can either grieve your Creator or, by humbling yourself, serving Him faithfully, and exalting His name, you can fill His heart with joy. You can be a blessing to the Lord or you can curse His name. The fact that we have the privilege to brighten His countenance in any way is mindboggling and humbling. But Scripture teaches that our Heavenly Father has come near to us like a parent. Thus, He takes joy in us and thus He is grieved. Will you be a righteous son who brings joy to your father (Prov. 23:24) or a foolish son who brings grief (Prov. 17:21)?

For those who bring grief, this passage should serve as a reminder that our God is more than just a Heavenly Father; He is also a righteous judge. In chapter six the Lord reveals His plan to wipe all mankind off the face of the earth. Noah and his family alone find favor in His eyes. The flood account is no children's story. It is a terrifying account of God's wrath being poured out on His rebellious creation to the extent that almost no one survives. This is hard for us to accept. It does not square with modern sensibilities, but it is the God of the Bible. We dare not ignore Him. We dare not skip over this passage and discredit it. We dare not recreate God in a softer image more like our own. God is holy and just and He responds to sin rightly with terrible fury. Scripture says, "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord." We like to emphasize God as Father over God as a righteous judge, but according to Scripture He is both. The humble and righteous need not fear His wrath, but the wicked and rebellious must know that justice will be served. They will not trample the poor underfoot forever. They will not scoff at their Creator for eternity. In the end, He will set things right. Just as Noah is a precursor to Christ, so the flood is a precursor to the end of the world. 

How will you respond to this Father God who is also a furiously righteous judge? How will you respond to His promised one? Will you live your life to bring Him joy or will you waste your life chasing after your own desires? Embrace God fully today. Do not try to change what Scripture reveals about Him. Do not try to tame Him or your commitment to Him. Surrender yourself wholly and fully into Hi service. You will find that his burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matt. 11:30).

For further reading...

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