The Lord is up to something.
I have to share something SO COOL with you. Last night, I was reading the Flood account (Gen. 6 – 9), a very familiar sequence to most of us. God tells Noah to build the ark (I’m sure that Noah had lots of questions – What’s an ark? What’s rain?), Noah spends a long time doing so, two of every animal appears, the family sets up housekeeping inside the ark, the rains come and everyone waits. And waits. And waits some more. (I’d like to know how Mrs. Noah and her daughter’s-in-law dealt with each other during all that waiting).
Pretty straightforward stuff, particularly if you went to Sunday School as a kid, like I did. Ah!, but God is full of surprises and His Word is full of ever-deepening treasures. I have discovered that I can read something multiple times and a new facet of the passage will suddenly pop out at me just when I think I can’t learn anything new. Here’s what got me:
Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” -Genesis 8:8-17 (NKJV)
Did you catch it?
God made a covenant not only with Noah, but with every living creature.
We humans occupy a special place. God gave us obvious abilities of reasoning, communication, imagination, creativity. We reflect something of His image and He invites us into relationship with Him through Jesus. Therefore, that He should make this covenant with Noah seems logical, even a little businesslike. For God to make this covenant also with the animals, with ones who suffer and groan (Rom. 8) due to the curse that they live under because of us reveals to me a whole new space of tenderness in the heart of God that I had never before considered.
He cares. About everything. It’s true that nothing escapes His notice (Lk. 12:6-7). When He says He has good plans for me and you (Jer. 29:11), He utterly means it.
But sin gets in the way.
How do we fit together God’s promise of goodness with that reality?
I love how the Lord so often sets me up. My excitement over this passage and the encouragement I found in the reminder of His care spilled over into today, starting me off with a uniquely positive attitude. (I am not, in any way, a morning person). I believe that this attitude, this buoyant hope in His love, was used of the Spirit to open my ears.
Sitting at my work station, I had the privilege of being able to listen to several of the Passion 2013 conference messages while I worked my way through some extremely boring reports. Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission, was one of the featured speakers. His initiation into human rights advocacy came via working for the National Institution for Reconciliation in South Africa, during the years of apartheid. Since then, he has spent his time working to free victims of oppression and modern-day slavery, including serving with the United Nations Center for Human Rights during the investigation into the Rwandan genocide.
He spoke women crippled in brick factories, forced to carry loads of 70 pounds or more on their heads. He told of men forced into domestic servitude. He related stories of very young children sold to evil men and women who sadistically rape them.
Haugen said that people often ask when God is when confronted with the reality of 27 million human beings – real, live people – living as though dead each day. He wonders where the people of God are.
The answer to that question is how we grapple with God’s promise of goodness and the reality of sin.
Evil is real. It’s all around us every single day. Those of us within whom the Spirit dwells are, hopefully, growing more sensitive to it. With that sensitivity comes responsibility. We can’t turn a blind eye to this nightmare. Nor do we have to be overwhelmed by it.
God cares. Nothing escapes His notice. Evil isn’t going to win (Rev. 21). We can be confident of all these things. Because of this confidence, we can act.
Standing up for the voiceless and oppressed takes many forms – donating money, prayer, lobbying elected officials, researching for and buying fair trade, reporting suspicious activity to authorities, working for an advocacy group, being quick to make amends when we lash out at others. I don’t know what this will look like for you and I’m certainly not going to try and guilt-trip you into doing anything. All I ask is that you remember the covenant that God made with all of creation. He loves. He can do no less.
As His beloved and redeemed, neither can we.