Summary: Both God’s justice and His mercy show how much He values life.
Does God Care?
A Sermon on Genesis 9:1-17
This morning we are continuing our series on Noah and the flood. Noah has been saved from the flood of destruction that the Lord brought on a wicked and disobedient world. He has floated on the ark for 150 days (Gen 7:24). And as Noah looked out on a world that had been devastated by a flood, the unknown was before him.
This world was in some ways the same as the old, and in some ways different. Noah’s life had been spared, along with his family and a ship full of animals. But as Noah looked out from the ark, there wasn’t a sign of life anywhere, other than on the ark itself. It would be easy to wonder at this juncture if God held life to be cheap. Was the taking of life a small matter to God?
As they disembarked, I imagine it was in fear, as well as gratitude, that they built an altar to God. And in His great mercy, God then told Noah what he could expect in this new world in which he finds himself. If you have your Bibles with you, I invite you to take them out and turn to the 9th chapter of the Book of Genesis. Beginning at chapter 9, verse 1, we read:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 "The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. (Genesis 9:1-3, NAU)
Life is valuable to God
This hearkens back to Genesis chapter 1. Adam and Eve were also told to fill the earth and rule over the animals. While they are not explicitly told that they can eat animals, Adam and Eve are given the plants for food. It is possible that they were allowed to eat the animals, for at least after the fall, they did have flocks (Genesis 4:2).
But here with Noah, God’s purpose is not only to commission him to populate the earth and be a good ruler. God also wants to instill in Noah the understanding that life is anything but cheap. As we read on, we will see that more and more. Here, God is more explicit with Noah than He was with Adam. In addition to telling Noah that he has dominion, God explains more fully what that dominion is to look like. The animals will fear mankind, for they are given into his hand, and they will be food for mankind. But life is to be considered valuable to men, so Noah does not have free reign over the lives of the animals. There is a stipulation when it comes to killing them. In verse 4 we read:
4 "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6 "Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. 7 "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it." (Genesis 9:4-7, NAU)
An important point here is that God is now telling Noah that even in death life is not to be taken lightly. After a devastating flood, it would be easy to conclude otherwise. But Noah and the rest of mankind have the purpose of not only populating, but protecting, and not destroying. Noah is facing a new beginning, and some responsibilities haven’t changed. But now God defines that role more fully, to ensure that in his dominion, mankind does not succumb to the temptation to destroy life.
But even with a warning like this, men still turn to evil and destruction. When Jesus walked this earth, it didn’t take long before He was a wanted man. The Pharisees quickly sought his destruction. Why is that?
When Jesus cleared the temple, turning over the tables of the money-changers in rage, declaring it to be a den of robbers, His righteous anger and the peoples’ amazement put fear in the hearts of the religious leaders. We are told in Mark, chapter 11, that:
The chief priests and the scribes heard [what He had done], and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching. (Mark 11:18, NAU)