Summary: A message for Sanctity of Life Sunday, encouraging Christians to respect life.
IN HIS OWN IMAGE
“For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
“And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”
A world that has forgotten God is a brutal place in which to live. In a world without God, respect for human life is not only diminished, it is finally jettisoned and self-preservation presses people to view compassion as weakness and to ignore the will of God. In a world that has forgotten God, a man or a woman is just another creature to be used for one’s own advancement and pleasure. Since people no longer bear the image of God, why should the individual be accorded respect?
The Word of God describes society that has forgotten God in various places. Two such instances are found in Paul’s letters to the Christians in Rome and in his first letter to Timothy. To the pastor of the church in Ephesus, Paul wrote of the last days. “Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” [2 TIMOTHY 4:1-5].
In the dark words that open the Letter to Roman Christians, Paul sums up society without God through providing an overview of humanity. “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them” [ROMANS 1:28-32].
Contemporary Canada displays startling, even distressing evidence, that the conditions of which the Apostle warned are openly embraced throughout society. The message turns our attention back to a time immediately following worldwide judgement, when God made a covenant with those who had survived that judgement. Whether the world hears the words of the Lord or not, we who are Christians are responsible to hear Him and to act on what He has said.
In that spirit, I invite your attention to the words of God which were spoken to Noah and his family. In particular, I ask you to focus on God’s estimate of human life as revealed in the covenant He made with all mankind through Noah. The text for the message this day is found in GENESIS 9:5-7, and these words of the Lord will occupy our attention for the next short while.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR THE PASSAGE — God created the world and declared it to be very good; in that world, a man and a woman were placed in a perfect environment—the Garden of Eden. There, our first parents lived until sin entered into the world and they rebelled against the Creator. Through their rebellion, they plunged the creation into sin and ruin.
They were driven from the Garden and into a world that looked the same as before their sin; but it was forever changed. Death now reigned in the world; and whereas life had previously reigned, now all life was subject to death. Foodstuffs rotted, clothing wore out, and tooth and claw was the rule of the jungle. Finally, the actions of one of their own children shattered any hope that nothing had really changed.
Cain murdered his brother Abel, and was subsequently driven from family by the LORD God Himself [GENESIS 4:1-16]. Enoch, Mehujael, Methushael and Lamech followed in the lineage of Cain [GENESIS 4:17-24]. Before long, the population of the earth was divided into two groups—the majority of mankind following their own self-interests, and a decreasing number of individuals who called upon the Name of the LORD [GENESIS 4:26]. Those who followed their own desires, undoubtedly religious but unwilling to subjugate their desires to the will of God, grew increasingly numerous, while those who sought the will of God first became a minority, then were marginalised, and at last almost disappeared.
The Bible describes the conditions that prevailed immediately before the Flood with this grim assessment. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to his Heart…