Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A God Who Deals With Persons

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth.

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch…

For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters 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. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.
Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him
Genesis 6:11-22

Reflection OK, first, I am not going to talk about the silly movie, OK? I haven’t seen it, but everything I’ve read about it indicates that it has scant resemblance to the scriptural story and is overlaid with the typical concerns of post-modern secularism. I’m not all irate about it; I just am not interested.

The trouble, of course, with movies like this, is that they become the focus of attention, and then everyone’s discussing the movie and whether it does or does not accord with Scripture, and then the whole discussion devolves to concerns about the historicity of Noah and the ark and where the ark is and geological evidence of the great flood… and things that I am also totally not interested in.

Now virtually all the ancient tribes and cultures of the region have some kind of record of a flood, OK? So probably at some point it stands to reason that there was indeed a big old flood in the ancient near East, and lots of people died. Beyond that, I’m not willing to accord historicity to this specific story, nor do I think that it is of the slightest importance, honestly. And if I am wrong, and every last word of Gen 6-9 is totally true, that’s fine too.

All these endless wrangling and un-concludable debates detract in my view from the real depth and beauty of the Noah story. I hold that this depth lies in seeing it as, truly, a third creation story. Gen 1 and 2 are each separate creation stories; now we have a third one, the story of the re-creation of the world, damaged by sin. The world in the first place came out of a watery chaos; we see in this story that human wickedness has the precise effect of returning the world to this watery chaos, that sin is the great undoing of the creative work of God: “Let there be… and it was… and God saw that it was good.”

Human beings, saying no to God’s creative plan, un-create the world. But God is not defeated by our wickedness. At the same time, God never repeats Himself. He does not simply wipe it all out and start again in a garden with a man and a woman. Rather, he chooses one man, one righteous man, and his family, and with him recreates the world. This is the key thing—God created the world unaided and supremely sovereign; He does not recreate the world, heal the world, in this way. He chooses a man, one good person, and says ‘Will you do this thing for me? Will you help me out here?’ Not because He needs us, but because it is His sovereign will to raise us to that dignity, to be co-workers with God in healing the damage sin and evil have wrought.

And this Noah story, the first beginnings of the healing and restoration of the world, sets the pattern all salvation history will assume. God works his healing grace by the choice of a single man, a single family, a little tribe, a nation, but then always back to the individual, the prophet, the king, the anointed one of God.

God is neither wholly Alone in his work in the world, nor is He some diffused abstract ‘spiritual force,’ like a gas pervading the atmosphere. Our God is a God of particulars, of individuals, a Personal God who deals with persons. And so the whole of God’s saving work comes to rest on the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

And Jesus is incarnate in the womb of Mary of Nazareth. And Mary of Nazareth is entrusted to the care and protection of Joseph of Nazareth (Happy feast day!). And later on the life and mission and saving work of Jesus Christ is entrusted to the apostles, the disciples, the Church, you and me. And on and on and on. Always the pattern, always coming down to this one and that one, and will you be obedient and will I be obedient, and so help God heal the world.

Building an ark. Gathering animals. Doing the work of love and service that is before us today, now. Praying that God’s will be done in us and in the world. Entrusting the whole of our lives and our loves and our cares to Him. Preserving the Gospel, protecting it within ourselves, carrying it with reverence and awe and then handing it over to the world, as Mary and Joseph did in the temple. This is how the world is healed, with and in God, bit by bit, person by person, day by day.

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