Session 4: Noah and a Changed Earth
Gen. 6 - 9
The Flood story is one of the most dramatic stories of the Old Testament, capturing the imagination of old and young as we all try to envision such a catastrophic event. The exact nature of the event is difficult to reconstruct from this point in time some 4,500 years later.
From a scientific perspective, issues with the flood abound - number of species on the ark, food on the ark, current distribution of animals, food on Ararat, survival of anything in debris filled water, re-population of the earth in a short time, migration of animals across oceans, etc. Many of these arguments are impossible to refute except by recognizing that conditions on earth were different then, and also recognizing that God's arm is not shortened, and He will accomplish what He will accomplish.
But the significance of the story is not really the destruction of all life except the ark's inhabitants. The state of Creation and God's response are to be our focus.
The destruction on the earth inflicted by God is really a return to the beginning of the earth in Genesis chapter 1, a return to the chaos that existed before God brought order to His Creation. Indeed, mankind had recreated a version of chaos, a departure from God's intent at Creation. God wiped out man's chaos...
"5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Gen. 6:5-8).
...and He restored the original form of chaos. God destroyed and re-created the physical world, destroyed unrighteousness and restored righteousness. "The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2).
God's assessment of man in Genesis 6:5 above shows a total depravity of man, that is, perversion of God's original intent to its opposite, evil. How is a loving God to respond to His Creation that in Noah's time is in total opposition to Him? ____
God spared Noah because "Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9). What does it mean to "walk with God?" (also Gen. 5:21-24) ___________________________________________________________
There is a popular saying: "Those who walk with God always reach their destination." What if the destination is not in the afterlife but in the here and now? Is that what Jesus was trying to tell us (Luke 17:21)? And Paul, was he saying this, also (Rom. 14:17)? We may miss this life if we are living only in anticipation of the next life.
Relationships changed after the Fall, and relationships change again following this later fall. There are always consequences for our actions. How are relationships between man and animal changed after the Flood? (Gen 9:1-4) _________________________________________________________________________________________________
And between man and man? (Gen. 9:5-6) _____________________________________
And between man and God? (Gen. 9:11) ______________________________________
What are the implications for our health (physical, emotional/intellectual, and spiritual)? _________________________________________________________________________________________________
The earth may have been very different before the flood: a greater percentage of oxygen in the air; a cloud canopy absorbing harmful radiation; higher atmospheric pressure due to greater water atmosphere; more uniform worldwide temperature; etc. Gen. 6:3 could be interpreted to say that God limited mankind's lifespan to 120 years, but the context and the wording give mankind 120 years to live until the flood, a chance to repent, to change and live. Mankind's lifespan after the Flood was less than before the Flood. What impact might shorter lifespans have on man's abilities? _________________________________________________________________________
Some have argued that mankind was quite advanced before the Flood, the longer lifespans giving individuals a longer time to learn and to transfer knowledge to succeeding generations. We now spend much of our shorter lives learning basics and have less time for advancing knowledge. We do seem to have an increasing amount of knowledge, but we would be hard pressed to say that the character of man is more advanced now than it was 2,000 or 5,000 years ago. Why does knowledge increase while character does not grow closer to the character of God? __________________________ _______________________________________________________________________
Sin has not changed an essential fact - that man is made in God's image (Gen. 9:6b). We have a higher nature than the other creatures of God's Creation. What rights and responsibilities does this fact carry? ___________________________
Noah walked with God, but the choice of whom his descendants will follow, whether we will submit to God's laws or not, is always open. What was the sin of Noah's grandson, Canaan, and what was his punishment? ______________________ _______________________________________________
Without God, what is the source of man's vision of truth and justice? __________________________________________
There is truth about holiness, purity, etc., and about God Himself. If these truths are distorted or denied, how can the character of man be brought to a higher level? ____________________________________________________________
The last lesson spoke of the circular connection between the character of a society and the character of its created gods.This concept is helpful in understanding not only the societies with man-created gods, but also the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions with their man-made interpretations of the character of God. We can see how societies at different points in time held different views of the character of God and how those views affected their actions. Examples include the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Israeli-Arab conflict (any century), Islamic terrorism, and even the Rapture, but every point in history is a reflection of the beliefs of the time. Although God's character is constant, man's interpretation of His character is not.
How does a person's view of the character of God affect the person's health? ___________________________________
and life, in general? ________________________________________________________________________________
The character of God provides a foundation, a bedrock upon which all else is built. The unchanging nature of His character provides security and certainty in an uncertain world. There is a confidence in the future that we find lacking in man-based traditions.
God established a covenant with Noah (Gen. 6:18 and Gen. 9:12-17). God also reaffirmed man's dominion and that mankind was made in the image of God, and His command was to "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 9:1-7). All of this is a blessing as well as a command. Although similar to Genesis 1:28-30, this later passage is different. Animals are not only under man's dominion, they are given for food. The forbidding of eating blood is symbolic, perhaps, of the restriction of not eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God also found it necessary to prohibit the shedding of man's blood unjustly.
Man is to have dominion....Note that we are God's stewards and not rulers in our own right. As stewards, we are to care for the earth as He would care for the earth, just as we are to care for one another (love) as He would care for (love) us. What does stewardship of the earth look like? ___________________________________________________________
How does our form of stewardship differ and how does this impact our health? _________________________________
Is our view of health and the means of achieving health different depending on whether we believe in the God of Genesis or not? ________________________________________________________________________________________ Simply believing in God as Creator may not affect our views on health. For example, a deist, viewing God as Creator but no longer involved in His Creation, might see the laws of nature as mechanical, without divine intervention even possible. Even the Christian might see no overriding intervention by God and (possibly) the laws as having changed to no longer represent God's original intention due to the fallen nature of the world. But what of the person who does believe in a God who spoke the universe into existence and knows that God is still speaking?
Can we hear Him? _________________________________________________________________________________
Do we have time to listen? ___________________________________________________________________________
In summary, the science of whether there was a flood or not is less relevant than what Noah's story reveals about the character of God. If we are not careful, we end up arguing against certain points of view rather than affirming"our first love" (Rev. 2:4).
There are lies that keep us in bondage - about the character of God, about who we are in His eyes, and about the purpose each of us has in this life, etc. And there are distractions that shift our focus to the less important issues. What are the effects when we do not understand the truth on these points: that God is love, He is our Father, and He has given us all that we need? _____________________________________________________________________________________
(Remember who is the father of lies (John 8:44), and that the acts of men and women spill over onto others.)
Specifically, how do incorrect beliefs affect our health? _____________________________________________________ Session 5