Monday, March 30, 2015

What is the over arching story line of the Bible (Part 4)

So, what is the overarching storyline of the Bible? 

I'm convinced it's not the one I was told it was. It's not a storyline that begins in Eden and because of Adam and Eve's sin means that we are all in jeopardy of being sent to the ever-living lake of fire. A fate we are destined to unless we get all the I's dotted and the T's crossed and believe just the right things about Jesus and God. 

No doubt someone will read this and think my eternal salvation is at stake.

But given another alternative storyline that I've explored in previous posts, I do believe another alternative is faithful to the Bible and makes me more loving to God and my neighbor, more welcoming to others in the way that God has welcomed me. That's not to say that anything goes and 'Wahoo!" we can now all get it on!

Noah and the Ark
We've looked at Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. And what we've seen is a God who doesn't stand in the way of real consequences, but who responds mercifully and in love to protect and provide. But what about Noah?

Noah's story is a potentially big one to choke down. Think of all those people drowned and lost forever. But I encourage you to think about this differently - and to think about it differently based on what's in Genesis. 

As chapter 6 begins we find that humanity no longer lives in the garden or on the settled farm, as was the case with Adam and Eve and Cain contra Abel. Humanity now congregates in cities where it collectively deteriorates further into abysmal living, becoming "continually evil in their hearts" (6:5). God takes a close look at humanity, sees our moral collapse, and the author describes it pretty succinctly: They have become "corrupt ... And filled with violence" (6:11). This is not a good thing, and the text says that God's heart is "grieved" (6:6).

Of course with grief often comes anger. God regrets what he has made and decides to destroy everything. Which is a similar thing to God saying that on the day they disobey God and eat of the one forbidden tree, Adam and Eve will surely die. It's also similar to Cain being a vulnerable, unprotected wanderer like his brother Abel. This is a pattern that repeats itself. 

But then another pattern repeats itself when God notices Noah. God looks at Noah and something happens to God's grieving and angry heart. God like before refuses to let evil go unchallenged. God will destroy everything, but then God acts with surprising mercy. As he did when he let the first man and woman live, and as he did when he protects Cain with a special mark, God protects Noah and his family and the animals. 

We may not like this unpredictable God who changes his mind; but one thing we can do is trust that his love endures and protects us in spite of our many failures. 

Again, this is quite a different story line than the one I absorbed growing up. And the one that seems resilient even today. 

A Last Thought
So then what? Well Noah leaves the ark and God does an interesting thing. God first does a restart. He reiterates the same command he did in the Garden, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth."

And then, get this, God repents. It's actually not the first time, especially if you understand what repentance means. Repentance is a change of mind, a change of course or direction. God did it with Adam and Eve by not killing them when they disobeyed. He did it with Cain when he did not leave him vulnerable to the violence of others. And now he does it with Noah by vowing to be faithful to humanity even though "the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth" (8:21).

Now this is a God I can serve.