Laying Down the Bow

Bow and Arrow

by Lois Tverberg

And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.’
– Genesis 9:12-13,15

One of the most popular scenes available for decorating baby nurseries is that of Noah’s ark with the a big boat, cute animals and a pretty rainbow. This image is fine to use as a beautiful image of God’s faithfulness, and represents a happy end to the story. But let’s not forget that the flood is very much the opposite from being a happy children’s story – it is the most terrible scene of judgment in all of the Bible. Every human being died in one great cataclysm because mankind had sank to such depravity that God was sorry that he even made them.

I had a hard time imagining what human beings could do that would merit such anger on God’s part until I heard about the horrors the Nazis committed in WW2 concentration camps, or of the deaths of thousands in torture chambers and by nerve agents in Iraq in even just the past few years. Humans really are capable of wickedness to the limits of the imagination. On Sept. 11, I remember wondering why God didn’t swoop down and put an end to pockets of evil that are responsible for such misery on earth. Of course, the infection is universal – if judgment started, where would it end?

Bow and ArrowIn the light of this, the first covenant that God made has a profound message to us. The word for “rainbow” is used for “bow” through the rest of scriptures, the weapon of battle. The sign of the rainbow is to say that God has laid down his “bow,” his weapon, and has promised not to repeat the judgment of the flood, even if humans do not change. It is because humans are so precious in the eyes of God that he constrains himself to finding another answer to the dilemma of sin than the obvious one of universal judgment.

Even in this early story we see forward to God’s ultimate desire for mercy rather than punishment for sin. He will finally bring it to maturity in Christ, who would extend mercy to sinners and a permanent covenant of peace with God through His atoning blood. That covenant is the ultimate answer to sin, the final solution to the terrible human problem.

Photo cred: Travis

The Slippery Slope

Temptation and Expulsion from the Garden

by Lois Tverberg

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. – Genesis 6:5-6

We think of the point at which sin enters the world as when Eve takes the first bite of the apple. Some of us quickly leap next to the Gospels to read God’s answer to the problem. But it is interesting that if we keep reading we can get a lesson about sin and its consequences.

Temptation and Expulsion from the GardenWe see sin’s effects even after Adam and Eve are sent out from the garden. Within a few years, one of their own sons commits the first murder – a drastic worsening from Adam and Eve’s small act of rebellion of eating forbidden fruit. Cain is a man who doesn’t care about his brother and is prone to jealousy. His anger entices him to murder, just as the serpent led Eve to sin. A few generations later, in Cain’s line, we see a man even more vengeful than Cain – his descendant Lamech. Lamech said the following:

I have killed a man for wounding me, and a boy for striking me;
If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold. Genesis 4:24

Not only was Lamech more violent than Cain, he was even proud of it! Finally, evil reached its peak a few generations later in the generation of the flood. The scriptures say that this was a people whose only thought was of evil all the time, and God was sorry he made them. He wiped them all out with a flood, but the first thing man did after the flood was to build the tower of Babel — it was clear that the flood hadn’t washed the sin out of their hearts.

At this point, God began a much more long-term answer for sin in the heart of man. In the very next chapter, God chose one faithful man, Abram, and promised that through him he would make a people that would bless the whole world. Through him would come a nation that could be taught God’s way to live, and even if they struggled, could be a light to the nations around them. And God could use this nation to bring his final answer to sin – Jesus.

Through this we can see the amazing power of sin that starts out small and quickly grows powerful and ugly. But we can hope in the fact that while God’s answer also starts out small, it ultimately will triumph with redemption.