8 November 2012

Genesis 6:11 - 7:7

"And God said to Noah, 'I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.'" (v. 13)


If God's actions, as described in chapters 6 and 7 of Genesis, had taken place in our lifetime and not in the ancient past, they would probably warrant the term 'ethnic cleansing'. Humankind had so messed up God's good creation that God thought it would be better to make a completely fresh start.

We know of and have lived through experiences now described as 'ethnic cleansing' - in Nazi Germany, in Rwanda, in the Darfur region of Sudan and currently, it would seem, in Burma with the minorities in that country.

When such horrors happen, the cry often goes up, 'how could a good God allow such a thing as this to happen?' Rarely do we, as human beings, turn the gaze and the question on ourselves and say, 'what sort of creatures are we that can do such terrible things to fellow human beings?' There is more than ample evidence that the sin against which God reacted in the story of the flood is still as endemic now as it was then.

God had created a good world but the human creatures God created had acted in a disobedient and sinful manner and messed up that good creation. No wonder God was fed up and "determined to make an end of all flesh".

Yet, as we know, God did not give up on humankind. God did bring about a disastrous flood which had devastating consequences but God also offered humanity an 'escape clause' in the person of Noah. God invited Noah to build an ark and take his family and examples of all living creatures into the ark until the flood subsided.

Why an 'escape clause'? And why Noah? There is no answer except the undeserved grace of God - a grace which elicited a response in Noah, a response of faithfulness and trust.

To Ponder

  • In the face of horrific incidents or natural disasters, when people ask you, 'how could God allow this to happen?' how do you respond?
  • We have experienced a lot of serious flooding in Britain recently. Why do you think flooding, perhaps more than other natural events, hold such a primordial dread for people?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.