the BIG story: Genesis 9:17

image In the Peanuts cartoon, Lucy and Linus are staring out the window, watching it rain. Lucy says: “Boy! Look at it pour. What if it floods the whole world?” Linus answers: "It won’t.

In Genesis 9, God promised Noah that would never happen again. The sign of that promise is the rainbow.” Lucy, turning back to the window with a big smile says: “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.” Linus replies: “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”2

Sound belief not only takes a load off our minds; it also teaches us what God is like and what He expects of us. Theology is meant to alter the way we live life.

1. Appreciate the value of life (9:1-7).
The word “blessed” is a key word in Genesis. It is a reminder that God blesses his people (cf. Jas 1:17). This is such a good word for us to hear.

So valuable is the blessing of human life that a compensation of life will even be exacted from animals for its loss.  In 9:6, the Lord declares: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” This is a controversial verse as it forms the bedrock of capital punishment. 

Whatever we might believe about the appropriateness of capital punishment, we can draw some conclusions about how seriously God considers murder:

    1. Human life is precious and sacred to God.  When a person murders another human being, he or she extinguishes a revelation of God. God takes this very seriously.

    2. The person who murders another being made in God’s image shows contempt for God. To kill another person usurps God’s sovereign authority over life and death. When a man or woman murders another person he or she assumes the role of God.

    3. Any society that loses its reverence for life cannot long endure. For this reason, God instituted capital punishment as a gracious restraint upon man’s sinful tendency toward violence and should act as a deterrent.

The responsibility for exercising justice is the prerogative of human government (Rom 13:1-4). For me, gracious forgiveness, an imperfect judicial system and inequality in society so that defendants will not be treated justly because economic status, social standing, or race, means that capital punishment is divine decree with little hope of appropriate human application. Indeed, it reminds me of jubilee.  Great idea, impossibly hard to implement. However, such human realism, does not and will not negate God’s divinely ordained demand for justice upon us all.

We are never far in Scripture from God’s blessing and the section closes in 9:7 with a strong contrast by reiterating what he said in 9:1: “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” Against the backdrop of the warnings about taking life, God now again reminds His people to produce life.

2. Celebrate God’s Covenant (9:8-17).
This passage reveals three important aspects to God’s covenant.

    1. unconditional (9:9)
    The recurrence of “I,” “Myself,” and “My” demonstrates the unconditional nature of this covenant. God Himself will ensure that this covenant is carried out. It is not dependent upon man’s work or faithfulness. This is how God typically works. There is nothing man can do to earn His favour.

    2. universal (9:9-10, 17)
    The replication of the phrase “every living creature” (9:10a, 10b; 12b) and its equivalents, “all flesh” (9:11b; 15b; 17b), and “every living creature of all flesh” (9:15a; 16b) – a total of eight times, affirms God’s passionate concern for, and certain commitment to, the preservation and care of all living species on the earth. Since God appreciates both animal and human life, so should we.

    3. eternal (9:12, 16)
    God clearly states that this is an “eternal covenant” (9:16), “for all successive generations” (9:12). Since God is the eternal God who dwells outside of space and time, he can maintain His covenants as long as He chooses. .

If God is willing to make a covenant with us, and He is willing to bind Himself to that covenant no matter what, what does that say about the relationship God wants to have with us? It says that we can be hopeful about the future, because we worship a God that not only desires our companionship, but who is willing to take the steps necessary to obligate Himself to that relationship.

Sound belief helps us to appreciate the value of life and celebrate God’s covenant.

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