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May 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 19, 2013 – Genesis Chapters 6-8

The Raven and the Dove

These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Genesis 6:9

INTRO: This is one of the most famous stories in the Bible

It has been a favorite of both comics and critics
– from Bill Cosby to Eddie Izzard
• even John Huston played a comedic Noah in his otherwise serious take on The Bible
– others have taken it very seriously — even making expeditions in search of Noah’s ark

The story begins with God being grieved over the human condition
– “earth was corrupt” and “filled with violence”
• God was grieved at what we did with what he had given us
• grieved over what we did with our potential, resources, and freedom
– shouldn’t God (the “God” and Creator) be upset?
• would it be better if he just didn’t care?
○ better for us and this planet?

Noah was unique – he stood out from the rest as righteous, blameless, and walking with God
– God took Noah into his confidence – warned him and prepared him for what was coming

In chapter 1, verse 6, God separated “the waters” into those above and those below the earth
– now, in 7:11-12, he released them and they came crashed down, burst forth from below
• and in the middle, the earth was deluged
• God released the forces of chaos
– but the ark, like an air-tight container, was lifted up and floated on the water
• inside it, God preserved “the breath of life”

Eventually the thunder and pounding rain stopped and the world became quiet again
– Noah released a raven – it didn’t return, so he released a dove
• it was his way of testing the world outside, to see if it was safe to venture out again

Noah and his family finally disembarked
– the first thing he did in fresh new world, gather stones, build an altar, and made an offering
• the altar  will become the central symbol of Israel’s connection with God

8:21-22, God’s response: it would seem he was sorry a second time
– he promised that he would never again “curse the ground on account of man”
• in effect, God’s final word is “Trust Me”
○ not, trust “seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat,” but “Trust Me”
○ these other things are provisional, “While the earth remains”
he is eternally faithful and reliable

When it comes to the Flood, we have lots of questions

Was it local or universal? How could God destroy so many lives?
– it’s okay for us to ask these questions – they naturally occur to us, given our western, scientific worldview
– but we need to keep in mind that:
• our questions are academic
○ they explore details that are not part of the story and do not help us understand it any better
○ they don’t help us hear what the story is telling us — its own message in its own words
• our questions are not questions that the intended audience would have asked
○ it’s like when we talk about dinosaurs being destroyed by an asteroid, or a worldwide ice age – we don’t take these ancient cataclysms personally
○ they’re merely explanations for phenomena we encounter in our world today
– so we’ll put our questions to one side for now and listen to the story

Why is this story so popular? (toy arks, animals, Noah and Mrs. Noah)
– it is found in dozens of ancient cultures, all around the world
– its popularity, in part, has to do with its compelling plot and dramatic elements
• it also touches something deep inside of us, a need to feel safe during the violent storms
○ when our children were younger, it was comforting to know we were all safely under one roof when we went to bed at night
○ here was a family, securely sheltered, who survived a cataclysmic transition
– it’s about the end of the world, but also, about protection and starting all over

This story has been carefully arranged and has a definite structure

It has a clear beginning and end (6:5-6 & 8:21)
– the heart of humankind (evil) is associated with the heart of God
– initially God is grieved at the human heart; at end, he has resolved to it
(for “God said to Himself” in NASB, the Hebrew reads, “God said to His heart”
• why does God tell us what’s in his heart?
• so we can know him, know His heart, and so we can walk with him

From the beginning and the end of the story, moving toward the middle, we find more parallels (7:1-2 & 8:16-17)
– “Enter the ark” (Noah, his family, and animals)
– “Go out of the ark” (Noah, his family, and animals)

Closer to the middle, there are more parallels:
– “the water “increased,” “prevailed” 7:17, 18, 19, 20, 24
– “the water subsided,” “receded,” “decreased,” “was abated,” “dried up” (8:1, 3, 5, 7, 11)

In the middle, we find the turning point in the story: “But God remembered Noah” (8:1)
– “remembered” is said from the human point of view
• how we would interpret what happened next by just looking at the circumstances
– the whole story is told from human point of view
• that is why God’s words and actions look so human, so un-Godlike

The Bible is just getting started and already it’s repeating itself

There were two choices for Adam and Eve
– then two sons – and two choices for Cain
– then the genealogy, and two directions that humankind could go — “walk with God” or “and he died”

The Bible seems to be telling us, “Beware this freedom of yours”

I’m going to read a quote from Abraham Maslow
– he argued that psychologically healthy people are drawn to what is right
• doing right is, to them, like their other basic needs
• he explains:

“They spontaneously tend to do right because that is what they want to do, what they need to do, what they enjoy, what they approve of doing, and what they will continue to enjoy.”
He says the unhealthy person lacks this integration
“Then what he wants to do may be bad for him; even if he does it he may not enjoy it; even if he enjoys it, he may simultaneously disapprove of it, so that the enjoyment is itself poisoned or may disappear quickly. What he enjoys at first he may not enjoy later. His impulses, desires, and enjoyments then become a poor guide to living.”

This, then, was the question in Noah’s day — which way will humankind go?
– the righteous, blameless path, walking with God and finding his favor?
• or will its heart choose evil, corruption, and violence?
• the Flood is the answer to the question

Reading through the story this time, a thought kept nagging at me

It seemed that the raven and the dove are the essential symbols of the story
– that Noah took a risk when he freed them
• giving them freedom to fly could work against him
○ which is true of the raven – it didn’t return, it didn’t give him any help or information
• perhaps after releasing the raven, Noah realized he made a mistake
○ a dove would be a better choice for gathering the information he needed – more reliable

This story is about humankind and the freedom God’s given us
– we either fly away from him, like the raven, or we keep returning to him like the dove
• either he never sees us again, or we return with the olive branch in our hand
– our worry today is not that God will again destroy the world with a flood
• rather, that power-hungry and deluded humans will push the button
• what have we done with our freedom?

In 6:3, human evil is a problem for God’s Spirit
– there’s a fundamental conflict – and one God will not tolerate indefinitely
• his first resolve was to limit the human life span
○ limit the amount of evil a person could do in one lifetime
• but there was a second resolve that came much later — another option
– that brings us to today – “Pentecost Sunday” (see Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-4)
• a new revelation of the Spirit
○ rather than striving with humankind, entering and empowering humankind
• and even as the Flood destroyed “all flesh” (6:12-13; 7:21)
○ in this new flood of God’s Spirit, he is poured out on “all flesh” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16-17)
– God creates a new heart in us – he gives us a new spirit

CONC: We are still free

But now we can use the freedom to choose the Spirit
– and we have the opportunity to do this every day
• everything we do giving us opportunity to choose the good
○ because our days are just like the days of Noah, with people eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage
○ and the Spirit helps us in all these things to choose the good, the right, the healthy, the true, and the beautiful

The wonder of Jesus is that he did not come looking for the Noahs, the righteous and blameless
• he did not come to gather to himself the healthy, who don’t need a doctor
– he came for the broken
• for those of us who have screwed up, who feel it’s already too late

He came to tell us, “The Father misses you. He sent me to find you and tell you that He wants you to come home. And I am here to take you back to him.”

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