(Based on Genesis 6-7)
We might as well start with the bad news. The bad news is that God is a Mighty Warrior.
Actually, whether it’s bad news or good news depends on the point of view. From where I’m standing now, it has begun to look like good news. How is that possible?
You can probably understand why it would look like bad news that God is a Mighty Warrior. The Bible has a great deal to say about the anger of God, the “wrath of God,” or the judgment of God. (It also has a great deal to say about His love, His mercy, His kindness, His compassion, but I’ve said we’d be starting with the bad news). A lot of people come away from a partial reading of the Bible with the idea that the God of the Bible is harsh, unloving, and angry. If a person thinks of God as harsh and unloving, nothing could be further from the truth. But I have to admit that we do often see His anger in the Bible.
What makes God angry? Let’s get a little more personal. What makes you angry? I don’t mean, what are your pet peeves, what mildly irritates you, like dirty socks that never make it to the hamper or drivers who don’t bother to signal. I mean, what really makes your blood boil? If there was any particular thing (or things) you could destroy outright, what would it be? Think for a second about what you would answer, and then let’s take a little closer look at the anger of God.
What are some of the specific things that you would imagine would make His blood boil? What are some of the specifics that you think He may want to destroy outright?
I can tell you a few of the things that would be on my list: things like, Holocausts, genocides, murder, rape, child abuse, drive-by shootings, corrupt big business, drugs being sold to young kids on the playground, elderly people being beaten senseless in their own homes for the sake of a few bucks, disrespect and ingratitude toward good parents (oops! I’ve been guilty of the disrespect and ingratitude. But they sure make my blood boil when I see them in other people’s children). And the list goes on. How is it possible to watch the news or read the newspapers and keep the blood below boiling point?! When I think about the things that go on everywhere in our world on a daily basis, I have a new understanding for the anger of God that I read about in the Bible. You have to realize that the things that make our blood boil are exactly the kinds of things that the world was chock-full of back in the time of Noah.
We have to realize why God saw fit to destroy the world with a flood. “All flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” Except for the animals, of course. And one man and his family. And those were the ones God saved from the destruction that He brought upon the rest of the earth.
Still, this entire account may raise grave theological quandaries in your mind. The evil in the world of Noah’s day may make us angry, as well, when we see it in our own world, but if we went around wiping out everyone who commits evil, wouldn’t that be just as evil as the evil that made us angry in the first place?
Yes, it would. But you have to realize something else. We’re not God.
Why would God hold the rights to life and death that we don’t hold?
If you’re thinking something to the effect of, “He’s the Creator of life,” then you and I are on the same page.
We didn’t create life. We don’t hold the rights to life and death of our fellow humans in our hands. But God does. (In certain cases, He has entrusted those rights into the hands of lawfully-appointed authorities (Gen.9:6-7, Rom. 13:1-4), but we’re not going to sidetrack onto a discussion of capital punishment here). The Creator of life is the only one who has the right to say when it should end.
Hopefully, you are somewhat familiar with the story of “the Fall” in Genesis 3. We see from that chapter that once sin and evil had entered the world, death was the inevitable result. Are there any good reasons why God cursed the earth and all living things on it with this curse of death once sin had entered the world?
If nothing comes to mind, try imagining a world where everyone lived forever and where all the specific evils I mentioned earlier were a reality (except, of course, murder). There would be no escape. We would never be free of concentration camps and rape and child abuse and oppression and cruelty and prejudice and hatred. Imagine living forever in a world like that! And the longer we lived, the worse we’d all go on getting. It’s unthinkable! It’s a nightmare! Once humans took matters into their own hands and rebelled against God’s commands and told Him they could run their own world without Him (or decided they could “be like God”– Gen. 3:5), God had to institute death on the earth. It was the only thing to do.
Of course, it’s extremely painful for us when we lose loved ones. When we start talking specific cases, I’m no more inclined than you are to think of death as a good thing. And it’s not a good thing. But because of sin, I can see that death is a necessary thing. Romans 6:23 tells us that death is sin’s just and lawful wage, and that’s the way I’ve come to see it. Where sin enters, death must follow. There must be an end to it all.
I’m convinced that God is a Gentleman. He doesn’t force His way on anyone. He gives us choices, but He warns us in advance what will result from making the wrong choices. Humanity chose their own way rather than God’s way, and that decision opened the door for every form of evil to enter: Holocausts and genocides and child abuse and all the other evils you and I could probably agree are on our lists of “Things that Must Be Gotten Rid of.” He had warned the first humans that choosing their way over His would result in death, and so it must. Humanity made the wrong choice, and God had to curse the earth with the curse of death.
And it was a curse, but I like to think of it as “a curse of mercy.” Out of pity, He instituted death on the earth.
We could get taken up with questions like, “But what about all the poor animals? Animals don’t commit evil. Why did He decree that everything on the earth must eventually die, even the earth itself?” I don’t want to get too far afield, but this is a very sticky theological problem for a lot of people, so I don’t want to ignore it completely, either. The shortest answer I could give you is that when sin entered the world, everything must die. Even the innocent animals. Even our planet. Even the universe itself is heading for an ending point, the second law of thermodynamics tells us. But again, try to imagine it any other way. Imagine that we humans, individually, could die because we’ve all sinned but that the earth and our universe just kept on going and going and going. Then there would never be an end to the madness. We would keep on perpetuating the evil in the world generation after generation after generation. No, when humanity brought evil into its world, even the world had to die. Why? So that there could be a new world. A new shot at a new reality — a perfect, untainted reality. That’s the only kind of a reality that could last forever. One that’s completely perfect. Any time we try to imagine a forever kind of an existence without perfection we end up with the same nightmare.
So that brings us, in a roundabout way, back to the flood of Noah’s day. Was God unfair to wipe out all life except the life that survived on the ark? Well, remember two things: He holds the rights to life and death. And everything must die, one way or the other. It’s up to Him to decide the timing of that event. If He chose to wipe out en masse everything that lived at that time or if He chose to take all those lives gradually one by one the way He usually does, would it make much difference in the long run? The fact remains that nothing that was alive back then would still be living today.
So far, I hope we might be agreeing that it’s right to be angry about sin. I hope we might also be agreeing that death must be the right and natural result of sin. In that case, maybe we can also agree that God is not unfair, unjust, harsh, and unloving even if we do see His anger toward sin and His judgment of death upon it. Maybe we could even begin agreeing that it really just might be good news that God is a Mighty Warrior.
God will not and cannot make a truce with sin itself. And what a good thing that is! It’s a nightmare to imagine living in any kind of an imperfect world forever. It’s also a nightmare to imagine a God running the universe who is not a relentless warrior against evil. A God who could turn a blind eye to Holocausts. A God who could wink at rape and child abuse and drive-by shootings and say, “Ah, well, boys must be boys!” NO! I’m so grateful, when I really stop to think about it, that God must and will destroy sin. That is good news!
Or is it? It starts to look like bad news again when I remember something. According to Romans 3:23 (which assures us that all have sinned) it looks as though it just might be bad news for us that God is a Mighty Warrior against sin.
Sure, you and I probably don’t commit the kinds of sins that really make our blood boil — the kinds of sins we agreed on earlier. But think about this for a moment: Where did those things come from?
All the “really terrible” sins and all the sins that you and I commit every day all grow out of the same root. That root is the sin that you and I have both committed and that every single human (except one) who has ever lived has committed. Earlier, I phrased it this way: “Humanity chose their own way rather than God’s way.” And isn’t that the sin that every single one of us has committed? The decision that I’m going to run my own life, never mind God and what He has to say about it. I’m going to be the boss of me. That sin opens the door to every other kind. And because God is a Gentleman, He says, “You can run your own life if you choose! You can reject Me if you choose. But I’ll tell you what the results will be.” And we can see the results all around us. A world full of all kinds of blood-boiling types of evil. And ultimately, death!
I’ll leave it there for today because I want the bad news to sink in for awhile. There is good news to follow, of course (otherwise the Bible would end with Genesis chapter three). But the good news will have to wait till later.