Judgment and Grace
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On our last post we looked at how gracious and patient God was with Cain, who killed his own brother. We noticed how Cain’s lack of concern for his brother was an indicator of the true condition of his heart.
Last week I gave you a challenge to reach out to one person. Family member, friend, perhaps someone who once attended church here but has drifted away. I was an appeal to be more intentional about being our brother’s and/or sister’s keeper.
Today we will see what happened to the world a few generations later.
After God banishes Cain and gives him a mark to protect his life the Bible tells us that Cain dwelt in the land of Nod to the east of Eden (Genesis 4:16). Nod literally means wondering, it was either a real place or wherever Cain went was referred to by that name. Cain had rebelled against the will of God and now wondered away from God, aimlessly through the world.
We are then given a brief genealogy of Cain. We see the first mention of polygamy on Genesis 4:19 with Lamech who had two wives. We also learn that Lamech was proud of his violence, killing a man for wounding him and even a young man for hurting him (Genesis 4:23). Lamech, then quotes what God had said regarding Cain, that seven-fold vengeance would be taken on anyone killed him, and wanting to outdo Cain claims that he will be avenged seventy-sevenfold (Genesis 4:24). In a way, Lamech is saying,
If you thought Cain was bad, its because you have not seen how bad I am!
There is a clear inclination towards an increasing level of violence in the line of Cain.
On verse 25, however, there is a shift from Cain back to Adam and Seth, who also gets an explanation about his name, much like Cain did (Genesis 4:1). Seth is the replacement for Abel. In the lineage of Seth by contrast, we have men beginning to call on the name of the LORD.
Chapter 5 gives us a more detailed genealogy of Adam trough Seth, who is described as being in the likeness and image of Adam. We know that Adam and Eve were created int he image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). From this genealogy we see that the human lifespan was significantly longer during those first few generations. We also read about Enoch (5:21-24), a descendant of Adam through Seth who walked with God and he was not, for God took him. I really wish we knew more about him. We also have mention of Noah, who interestingly would “comfort” (Genesis 5:29) in the context of the curse that followed the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Not much is mentioned about Noah at this point, but the word comfort sure gives the reader hope.
Now we come to chapter 6 where we will slow down and go deeper.
You are probably not surprised by this, but there is a challenging section here, found in Genesis 6:2-4.
Before I get into some of the translation and interpretation details. I would like to point out a narrative detail. Is there anything about Genesis 6:2 that sounds familiar? The sons of God saw, that the daughter of men were beautiful (good) and took for themselves. Where have we read something similar to this before?
"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." - Genesis 3:6 King James Bible
The lust of the eyes. The sons of God eventually behave similarly to Eve. Reminding the reader that all these sins are connected. The situation of the planet was due to Adam and Eve's sin, without repentance, rebellion against God continues to progressively increase. The human natural tendency, since the fall, it to rebel against God.
Now, who are the sons of God?
Sons of God
There are those who wish to interpret the sons of God as angels. They would quote Job 1:6
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6 New King James Version)
And though it is true that angels are also sons of God, they are not the only ones referred to in the Bible as sons of God.
- Exodus 4:22 And you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus said the LORD, Israel is my son, …
- Deuteronomy 14:1 You are the children of the LORD your God: you shall not cut yourselves, …
- Isaiah 43:6 Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth...
Not to mention that Jesus indicates in Matthew 22:30 that angels neither marry nor are given in marriage.
Given the immediate background of Genesis 6 is the genealogies of Cain and Adam/Seth it is more likely that the sons of God are the followers of God or the descendants of Seth, and the daughters of men, are the daughters of the descendants of Cain, who have rejected God. This way the verse references the text that preceded it, as opposed to angels who have not been mentioned recently (there has only been one mention of a cherubim on Genesis 3:24).
On Genesis 6:3 God speaks. The wording here reminds us of Genesis 1, where we read “And God said” repeatedly, now we read, “and the LORD said” but instead of creating a perfect world, we see God distancing Himself from a fallen world.
Verse 4 is our next challenge. Genesis 6:4 says there were giants in the land. The Hebrew is Nephilim, and several English translations simply transliterate (writing the Hebrew word using the English alphabet) the Hebrew here. Why would they do this? Because we are not exactly sure about how to translate it. Nephilim comes from he root Napal which means fall, so Nephilim could also mean fallen ones, which could be an allusion to the moral degeneration. This makes sense in light of the context. Once again, it is more likely that the text references something that it has been dealing with (the corruption of the human race) as opposed to something completely new that is not clearly defined or addressed (no other mention of giants or further description).
On that same line of thought the mighty men could also refer to violent men, warlike men. These men were famous, stories were told of their feats. This would echo back to Lamech’s description of himself to his wives and how he wanted to be known for his violence and might (Genesis 4:23-24). This interpretation flows well with the topic that is being addressed in this section (Genesis 4-6).
God said and God saw
On Genesis 6:3 we read that “The LORD said” and it reminded us of Genesis 1, now we read in Genesis 6:5 “then the LORD saw” and that also reminds us of Genesis 1 where we often read “and God saw” usually followed by, “that it was good.” Now, by contrast, the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great. How sad, how tragic, that which once was good now is wicked and continually evil.
The inhabitants of the earth did not just misbehave occasionally, they were not just prone to sin, it was not that they had a bent towards evil. God saw that they were habitually, continually, repentantly evil. It was not something that happened sometimes or even the majority of times, but all the time.
This broke God’s heart. God was grieved because He cared, because He loved, and seeing what we had become, grieved God in His heart. This happened because God loves us.
Now the LORD speaks again, this time reminding us of Genesis 3:14 “So the LORD God said to the serpent;”
This time God speaks in judgment, like He spoke to the serpent, to Eve, to Adam, and to Cain. God comes, God sees (evaluates), and God judges. The judgment now falls on man, beast and birds. All of creation had become corrupted by sin and violence.
And here, in the heart of global destruction, in the heart of severe judgment from God, we have the first mention of “grace” in the Bible (Genesis 6:8).
Even though humanity was continually evil, and they were violent and unrepentant. Even though God could no longer keep forgiving and giving second chances. Even though the time for judgment had come. Right here, in the context of global judgment, we find grace.
You see, Noah was not like everyone around him. According to Genesis 6:9 Noah was just, meaning he did what was right according to God’s criteria.
Noah was also perfect, not to be confused with sinless. Noah was entire in his commitment to God. Noah was complete in his behavior, he was not half-hearted, he was not a hypocrite, he was genuinely and wholeheartedly committed to God.
Finally, Noah walked with God. Noah had a close and personal relationship with God.
By contrast, the rest of the earth was corrupt before God, filled with violence. God investigated, God came and looked, and indeed it was corrupt.
God gives Noah directions on how to build the arc, Noah found grace but had to build the arc. Grace did not come to Noah because he built the ark, the grace came first, the building of the ark was simply the next step in the life of a person who was saved by grace. God told Noah all the information Noah would need to build the ark.
On verse 17 it is very clear to us that God is the one bringing that flood as judgment upon all the earth to destroy all flesh under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.
God Himself will bring the judgment. Not out of anger, but as a deliberate action after examining the evidence. God needs to put and end to the violence and suffering in the world and He will bring about the judgment.
And once again, in this context of judgment, the very next verse says “BUT” God will establish his covenant with Noah and his family and the animals will be saved.
Have you ever thought about how your relationship with God brings blessings on your family and on those around you?
God protects and saves Noah and his family and with him also the animals. Not all the animals, but representatives of all the different kinds. It is interesting that Genesis 7:2 mentions clean and unclean animals. Chronologically this take place significantly before the exodus and the tabernacle. It seems like God had made this distinction long before Moses came. Meaning the distinction between clean and unclean animals was not strictly for the Jews. Something for us to think about.
I won’t go into the details of the flood because I believe many of you are familiar with the story. I would like to highlight a few points however.
In this story we have God intentionally acting, He comes, He looks and He acts, He judges.
God can only put up with sin for so long. He is merciful, He is loving, but especially because of His love He cannot allow sin and violence and suffering to run rampant. Revelation mentions another judgment, Revelation 20:14-15 describes a lake of fire, which is identified as the second death. We will address this in more detail at another time. But notice the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25:31-46. There will be two groups and one receives death and the other eternal life.
I believe God is consistent and does not change. I believe in the veracity of the flood story, especially since Jesus mentions it in Matthew 24:36-44, in the context of judgment and His second coming.
The Bible clearly establishes God as judge over all the earth. Some shrink away from this topic. However, we only need grace in the context of judgment. Amazing grace exists because God judges, and destroys. But He is gracious and eager to save as many as possible.
In the story of the flood, we see the outcome that continuous and unrepentant sin leads to. Destruction, death, and suffering. God ultimately judges, destroying as well as saving. And most importantly salvation is by grace.
Some want to say Noah was saved by works, but Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. Noah’s actions followed his salvation. Noah walked with God, he had a real and genuine relationship with God. Noah’s obedience was only a natural outcome of what was in his heart. There is no evidence of Noah trying to earn his salvation while those around him fell short.
Instead, what we have is Noah being different from those around him because of His loving relationship with God. Noah loved God even in the worst of environments and God noticed and God spared Noah, and God used Noah to save others.
So in this story we see that God looks notices and judges. We see that God saves and is gracious to those who love him and have a relationship with Him. We also see that God will only put up with continual habitual sin for so long. There comes a time when He must act and put an end to all the wickedness.
The Bible tells us that there is another judgment coming. But I am not concerned. Because the same Bible also clearly outlines the plan of salvation and how we can obtain it for free in Jesus.
If you would like to learn more about God’s plan of salvation let me know. It is simple and beautiful. We don’t have to be afraid of judgment if we sincerely love God and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. This love causes us to live differently, much like Noah did in his day. Salvation comes by grace, much like in Noah’s day, and it does cause us to act in certain ways. God has made it all very clear in His word.
Judgment is real and it will not delay forever. On that same note, salvation by grace through faith is available to all who want it. There is no reason anyone should die.
John 3:16King James Version (KJV)
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.