Genesis 5-8: Hope in Midst of Judgment
January 3, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
We come now to the first of the well-known genealogies in the Bible (Gen. 5)—though actually it is not the first, that account being in Genesis 2 of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:4-7), which should immediately give us an important clue about these genealogies in the Bible. They are not family trees, a non-interpretative list of direct linear descendants. They are more like a storyboard for a movie, a selection of stories of particular characters, written with a particular intention to give a message. Words in English like “son of,” which always means immediate direct descent, can in the Bible mean a great distance between one and the other (Jesus, “the son of” David!). The genealogies also allow for matters like Levirate marriages. When you read a genealogy, then, you have to look for the clue of what the narrator is saying, the moment when the storyteller is, as it were, raising his hand and saying to his reader, “Look here! I want you to notice this!”
In this Genesis 5 genealogy, you can see the story that is being told when you look carefully. There is a repeated refrain: “and then he died,” “and then he died,” “and then he died.” The narrator is making the point that God’s promise that death would inevitably follow when sin entered the world (Gen. 2:17) is being fulfilled. But then, like a star shining against the inky black sky, there is one who did not: Enoch (5:21-24). Grace—there is a way back to God from the dark paths of sin, a door that is open, and you may go in.
Still, as the story in our passages today continues, few were finding this way of grace. In fact, the situation had become so bad that the Bible draws a delicate veil over the debauchery. Who exactly were the Nephilim (6:4)? What does it mean that the “sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them” (6:4)? Something more than fornication may be being suggested, or at least some think so. Ancient stories tell myths of relations with demons and “gods”; could this be a record of these gross actions in reality? Probably not—it is probably a witness to the fact that sex, a gift of God, is, when abused, liable like all of his good gifts if treated as the ultimate god of our lives, to become idolized and worshipped. Cults around the world have allowed the sex act to become in some way idolatrous. And you only have to drive down the highways in many major cities today to notice the signs for the idol of sex beckoning the unwary.
God’s patience is running out. He will send judgment on the world (6:5-7). But wait, what about the promise of the serpent crusher, the Redeemer (Gen. 3:15)? Well, there is one, Noah, who has found favor in the eyes of the Lord (6:8), or we might say more precisely God has favored or “graced” him. Noah walks righteously with God (6:9), and God will use him as his redeemer figure.
The story of Noah is laden with imagery of redemption, wrath, and salvation, but we should not press its details to precisely its sentimental fulfillment in Christological terms to do injustice to its actual, clear fulfillment in those same Christological terms. Yes, there is One to come who will rescue us from judgment—not this time the flood, promised never to occur again (Gen. 9:11), to the comfort of many when a downpour seems to threaten to drown roads and streets and city centers—but by fire and the world’s end before a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:1-10). Noah was faithful to God and his Word, and so (though distinctly not the ultimate Redeemer, as the story will reveal) shows us the importance of trusting God and his Word, and also points us to the perfect Redeemer still to come who alone can rescue us from the wrath that, outside of God’s grace in Christ, we all deserve.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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