The Genesis Flood and the Gospel Narrative

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My take on the Genesis flood is a bit different. A very common, perhaps the MOST common world saving strategy is “reward and rescue the good people, marginalize or eliminate the bad people.” This strategy in fact I believe is read onto the Bible. That is exactly what many people want God to do and the filter that many people read the Bible as asserting. We like reading the Bible this way because we like to locate ourselves with the righteous, deserving the good things we get, and we like to locate our enemies with the unrighteous, deserving the punishment they get.

What do we have in the Genesis flood? God looks and sees the mess humanity has made of his good creation and he wishes he had never made us. Then he has the idea, I’ll save just the very best in the world (and his family, good parents have good kids, good breeding, blah blah blah) and then I’ll remake the world by culling the bad and rewarding the good! It’s a Hebrew version of Karma.

How does that experiment work? God kills all but one family, saves the best animals, and even within this family after their rescue things go poorly (the wine, the laughter, etc.) and things go downhill right away.

Humanity cannot be rescued by dividing us into good people and bad people. We must be changed. Proof? The Genesis flood account. The flood account is a do-over, and the results are the same.

Then God takes a different approach and begins to pursue Abraham, and that’s where the drama really gets going. Then God really starts to get busy, enter into relationship, costly relationship, and it is in the context of this relationship that we get to see the truth about ourselves (we’re natural born sinners, fallen royalty of Eden) and also the truth about God, he’s a determined lover who like Hosea enters into a bad marriage in order to rescue his beloved.

The “good people”/”bad people” or deserving/undeserving categories don’t work. We need dramatic rescue and it will take nothing short of this God laying down his own life to get what he wants, us. 

Posted in: Pastors; Blog Photo courtesy Ian Britton- http://www.flickr.com/photos/freefoto/2837469960/ Image: See Credit

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Good stuff, Paul!  Thank you for sharing.  The good news is really good!  There is no downside.  It is God restoring the broken relationship between Himself and His people.  Only He can do it.  Only He did it, and now he asks us to believe it so that we can receive it.  To God be the glory!  Great things He has done!

Paul, I believe you are right about how the flood is often perceived, but scripture as you said, does give us a different indication.   To me, the flood indicates God's right to judge, and our inability to withstand judgement, outside of the simple grace of God.   It is God's right, and our total lack of rights, when it comes to our relationship with God.  It is not about just being bad or good.    It is about being obedient or disobedient.   It is about pride vs righteousness;   self vs humility.  

It's also about God planning our rescue (100 years of ark building).   Thousands of years of messiah promise.   Thousands of years of missionaries.   Praise the Lord!!!!

Thanks Paul.

I've often thought that, as children, learning the flood account in Sunday School, we were never taught about God's grief.  We learned about God's anger - though the account says God grieved.  It seems that we also were never taught that, after the flood, human hearts had not changed.  It was not true that the 'good guys' were delivered.  After the flood, the account says, 'Our thoughts were still evil all the time.'

It's God's heart that was changed by the flood.  God's heart moved God from "grieving" to God saying "never again."  God's heart said 'I'll take the punishment' humans deserve and invite them to live under my promise. 

Praise God for God's compassionate heart. 

John

I read this reply without looking at the name on it and liked the thoughtfulness expressed. Thanks, brother, for your thoughtful reply and for your good work! I appreciated Paul's words as well.

John H would you permit me to make a small comment?  I agree with many of your points, including that God grieved.   Some would say that is mere anthropomorphism applied to God, but I believe God did grieve, as scripture says.  However, I'm not sure that we can say or imply that it was the flood that moved God or changed God's heart.   I have always been under the understanding that God had planned the Messiah at the time of the garden of Eden already.  And that is the reason He saved Noah out of the flood.   The flood demonstrates the type of punishment we do deserve, and magnifies the deliverance of Christ.  God apparently decided not to ever cause a universal flood again in response to Noah's sacrifice made to God. (Gen 8:20)  It is a reassuring sign of God's response to our prayers of praise and adoration and supplication. 

And yes, as you say, praise be to our compassionate God! 

John,

I appreciate your thoughts regarding my reflection on the flood.  Your response reminded me that believing Christians - perhaps Calvinists more than others -  have spent a lot of time - and perhaps wasted a lot of time - attempting to discern how God - who lives outside of time - acts in relation to human time.  I vaguely remember the 'infrlapsarian' and 'supralapsarian' lecture from seminary.  

Did God have a change of mind after the Golden Calf episode - first saying "I will not go with these people or I would wipe them out" but later saying: "I will go with them."  Did the people's act of humbling themselves before God in light of their sin or did Moses' pleas on behalf of the people impact God's decision?  I remember those lectures as well.

I've conclude that humans - who live bounded by time - have no option but to understand events, history and God's actions, in light of time.  Perhaps that's a disadvantage.  

Or perhaps it's an advantage.  To understand all of God's actions on behalf of God's committed and compassionate care for God's creation invites us to recognize that God's actions are bounded only by God's character - who God is - not by time.  When we - who can only minimally imagine timelessness - add time to God's actions, we often get drawn into some form of 'action and response' or 'cost and benefit' mode of thinking that - at best, makes living in fellowship with God a mechanical "you do this and I will do that" or "If you do this then I will do that" way of living; or worse makes God our servant who we can compell to act in certain ways if we do or don't do certain things.

The advantage to accepting all of God's actions as being generated outside of time is that they all flow from God's character.  Consequently, I am learning to more and more trust God's character - made visible in the incarnation and life and death and resurrection and ascension and promised return of Jesus.  This way of making God's self known - revealing God's character to us - was determined by this God who lives outside of time.  Time is not the issue.  Divine character is.  

That perspective helps me. 

Blessings,

John

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