Monday, January 26, 2015

After Purging The World Of Violence, God Lays Down His Warrior's Bow

God was sorry he had made the human race in the first place; it broke God's heart... As far as God was concerned, the Earth had become a sewer; there was violence everywhere...
God said to Noah, "It's all over. It's the end of the human race... I'm making a clean sweep."
- Genesis 6, the Message

While the Biblical account of Noah and the flood is one of our most popular children's stories, it is also one of the most distressing narratives in the Bible.

Picture a world that has become so evil, so filled with violence (the primary sin mentioned in the text), that God despairs of having ever created it. In an act of anguish and outrage, the Creator orders all life on earth destroyed except for a remnant of eight people. Noah and his family, along with one or more pair of every other living creature, are the only survivors.

Who can help but be troubled by the fact that God "repents" (changes his mind) in the story, that he so rues the day that he made human beings that he utterly annihilates them? Is that the God we love and serve?

Thankfully, there is more to the story. In providing us with the rainbow sign, God dramatically changes direction once again, this time in announcing a pledge of amazing mercy: 

"Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." -Genesis 9:15b-16 (NIV)

One of my Old Testament professors, Millard Lind, noted that the Hebrew text doesn't actually name the sign as a rainbow but that it says, simply "I have set my bow in the clouds", as in a warrior's weapon. Thus God is engaging in an act of unilateral disarmament in laying down his bow.

Remarkably, it is unstrung and pointed away from us. And rather than having an ominous, warlike appearance, it is bright and multi-colored, a divine peace sign to be celebrated forever.

The least we can do is to pledge that it will remind us, too, to forever respect and preserve the well-being of all things living.
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