Friday, March 10, 2017

What if the Flood wasn’t punishment?

As we continue our preparations for Holy Pascha, I wanted to pose the question, “What if the flood wasn’t punishment, but salvation?” In today’s reading from Genesis we hear of the wickedness of humanity. Moses even uses the word, “And the Lord was sorry.” As I read various news reports online lately, or listen to radio talk shows, it regularly occurs to me that the wickedness we are experiencing today is nothing new. The world has always been plagued with wickedness since The Fall.

As we finish out the second week of the Great Fast, I thought we would look at the issue of punishment and salvation from the Orthodox vantage point. It should help you navigate the remaining weeks of the fast. If the world has always had evil, then how can today be different? Many Christians today are afraid of God, or at least they think they are supposed to be afraid of Him. In fact when most people refuse to be afraid of God, that often leads not to repentance but further sinful choices. If we don’t have to be afraid, we argue, then why repent? But what if we are supposed to both repent AND not be afraid?

When we look at God’s judgment expressed in the Old Testament, many see the anger and punishment of God. Just a few days ago we heard, “Lest they now eat of the Tree of Life...” and today we hear the flood is coming. The formula seems to be: God gives us a commandment, we screw it up, God gets angry and punishes us leaving in fear. We should really be looking at the cycle like this: God gives us a commandment, we screw it up, God steps in and saves us from further danger, we thank God and try better.

Based on this cycle the flood isn’t punishment but salvation. You see God knew He was going to enter into creation. Today’s reading from Isaiah reminds us of that much. God also knew that if He allowed life to continue (just like in the Garden) evil would prevail and it would be too late to save us because there would be no righteous woman (the Panagia) from which to take flesh. Before it got too late, God allowed everyone to die leaving just one righteous family to start over. This would allow Him to enter into creation as Christ later.

So as you look ahead to the remainder of your 2017 Great Lenten Journey, consider how you may have screwed up, and rather than be afraid of God, make a commitment to try better next time. That is true Orthodox repentance. If we figure that much out this year during the Great Fast, we will succeeded.

Here are today’s Old Testament Readings:
Isaiah 7:1-14 (RSV) - In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not conquer it.  When the house of David was told, "Syria is in league with Ephraim," his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.  And the LORD said to Isaiah, "Go forth to meet Ahaz, you and Shearjashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller's Field, and say to him, 'Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah.  Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying,  "Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it," thus says the Lord GOD: It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.  For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. (Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken to pieces so that it will no longer be a people.)  And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.'"  Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,  "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven."  But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test."  And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
 Genesis 5:32-6:8 (RSV) -  After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.  Then the LORD said, "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years."  The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination 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.  So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
 Proverbs 6:20-7:1 (RSV) - My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching.  Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck.  When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.  For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adventuress.  Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread, but an adulteress stalks a man's very life.  Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?  Or can one walk upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched?  So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.  Do not men despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry?  And if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.  He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself.  Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.  For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.  He will accept no compensation, nor be appeased though you multiply gifts.  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you.

No comments: