It is really interesting to me how all the readings seem sometimes to interconnect. If there were a theme today, it would be violence and divine retribution:
OT: Gen. 5:1-7:24
Twice, the evil and corruption that plagued the earth at the time of Noah is linked to violence. Gen. 6:11 says, "Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and full of violence." Two verses later, God tells Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them." Violence is a key indicator of corruption, apparently. But then, God chooses to handle the situation with a little (ahem) violence of his own. A bit genocidal, I'd say. What to make of that?
This is obvious, I guess, but there definitely seems to be a difference between man's violence and God's punishment. I think about this when Luke hits Anna, and then I spank him for it. On the surface, it definitely seems a bit ironic: I'm doing to Luke what he just got in trouble for doing to Anna. Yet, my authority as a parent and purpose in doing so are vastly different from Luke's. I hate giving Luke spankings, but I firmly believe they are in his best interest. I do it to train him to do good. God wasn't happy about sending the flood. But He saw the total depravity into which man had fallen, and He "was grieved that he had made them, and his heart was full of pain" (Gen. 6:6).
Still, an atheist or agnostic would undoubtedly recoil of this image of God destroying all of the sacred life He created. I have been working on that idea in my head for awhile, and I have a few theories. I will express them more fully later (say, when God orders the Israelites to wipe out whole populations), but for now, I will just say that the Bible does not support the idea of the right to life. Life is a gift; not a right. People have no right to take life, and, generally speaking, are strictly forbidden to do so. But God has every right to take away life. More on that idea later.
For now, I just have to point out that life on earth seemed miserable. Do you see how long people are living in these primitive, post-garden conditions? Lamech lived 500 years before he even had his first son. Five hundred years of toil and hardship! His words upon having a son? "He will comfort us in our labor and the painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed." Labor and painful toil for 500 years! And if that weren't bad enough, you had to deal with the complete corruption of humanity, and all that entails. Sometimes I look around at our culture and its direction and tell God, "Take me (and my family) now." The situation was SO much worse back then. No police. No protection. Just corruption and looting and back-stabbing, and violence. When you weren't engaged in back-breaking labor. For hundreds of years.
I don't know...the flood seems merciful to me. Maybe I don't cling to life as much as the next guy, but for goodness sake...
NT: Matt. 3:7-4:11
In what I found to be an excellent segue, we then cut to the New Testament, where John is sternly warning listeners to repent from the coming wrath. After the wrath we just witnessed in Genesis, I have to say, "Preach on, brother!" I even found the water allusion a little eerie: "I baptize you with water for repentance..." I Peter 3 compares the flood to baptism, so maybe that's why my mind reverted back to Noah and drowning humanity when he said that. And when I see the image painted by John of God cutting down unfruitful trees and throwing them into the fire, I am reminded again about the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom. Fearing God seems kind of out of vogue these days. It's all about grace and love and happiness and butterflies. Sometimes, I am shocked when I hear the words that come out of Jesus' mouth. I think, "That was really hard core! Aren't you supposed to be all peaceful and happy?" But I think we sometimes miss the boat when it comes to God and His expectations of man. His grace is immense, which is why any of us have a chance at heaven. But following Him--taking up our cross, as Jesus describes it--is not necessarily that easy. And the stakes are high.
David (or the psalmist) interestingly continues the them of violence in this psalm by urging God to kick his enemies' teeth out. "Break the teeth of the wicked," to be exact. I know, I know, he said a lot of other good things, too, including our "bolded" verse of the day, verse 3. But while I loved those other verses, this was the one that really jumped out at me, especially considering God's feelings on violence. I don't want to skip over it, like I sometimes have a tendency to do with verses that don't quite fit to me.
I guess what is most noteworthy about the verse is that David asks God to do it. David isn't going to take matters into his own hands. He knows that "'vengeance is mine,' saith the Lord." But he has a few suggestions for how God might want to execute that vengeance. I would also say that this is a psalm, and psalms reflect distinctly human emotions. Psalmists complain, they question God and accuse Him of abandoning them, they say all sorts of things that aren't entirely reflective of the Truth. Because psalms are clearly human expressions. So maybe wanting God to break your enemies' teeth is not the most godly reaction. But that's how he felt at the time. And it's a psalm.
Prov. 1: 10-19
Did anyone else find it amazing that this text specifically addressed violence, too? I was seriously impressed. The sinful violence of man is clearly condemned, and the end for violent people is clearly described: "These men lie in wait for their own blood; they waylay only themselves! Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of all who get it." Again, having the flood in the back of my mind really gives these verses a new relevance!
So what did you think? Does anyone have a different take on the situation? Other thoughts about God, man, and violence? Or did something completely different jump out at you? I would love to hear your thoughts.