One of the silliest arguments I have ever heard against Christians is that we are hopelessly naive about how “the real world works.” We believe in a good God who's sovereign over human history, so we must be simpleminded folk who uncritically believe everything we're told. I’m not sure about all Christians, but to the extent that the accusation has any merit, this means that Christians aren't reading and believing their Bibles. You can accuse biblical Christianity of being many things, but naive belief in the goodness of humanity is not one of them. In its description of human nature, the Bible could hardly be more harsh and brutal in its portrayal.
As you read in today’s passage, after several generations, humanity in general got only worse and worse in a downward spiral of sin. This brings us to another theological term, namely total depravity. First, we need to understand what this term does not mean: It doesn't mean that every person is as bad as he can possibly be. Even for nonbelievers, there's a restraining influence of personal conscience, social mores, parental upbringing, the influence of Scripture on a society, etc., that keeps even a non-Christian from giving into his sinful nature completely. What the term does describe is the fact that sin has touched and tainted every aspect of human existence. People are affected by sin mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. It infects our family life, our work experience, our marriages, our churches, our government, etc. It does not mean that people are unable to perform any act of goodness; it does mean that every act of goodness we do perform is to some degree tainted by sin. It also means that we are utterly unable to please God by our performance, since his standard is perfection.
Why is this important? Because we need to understand that our situation outside of God's grace is as bad as it could possibly be. We're not just slightly flawed people who need slight course corrections, a little tweaking here and there. We're not just ignorant innocents who just need a good set of rules to point the way. We're not basically good people who're led astray by society. We're rotten sinners who were running away from God--the only source of hope and life--just as fast as our feet could take us.
Another term we need to learn is anthropomorphism. This long word means ascribing human terms to the Lord in order to understand him better. For example, the Bible talks about his “right arm," or something being a "pleasing aroma" to him. Since we know that God is spirit, and spirits don’t have physical body parts, then what do these phrases signify? They're an attempt to explain something about him in human terms we can understand.
This passage is a good example of this. Did the Lord really change his mind about creating humanity? How can an omniscient God change his mind? What new information could be submitted to his knowledge that would cause this? Also we read later that “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” So we conclude that although he doesn’t really change his mind, the passage is trying to express just how bad humanity’s situation had become, and how angry he was at how people were acting. He doesn't ever change, but the circumstances on earth do, and his reaction to what is going on will change as the situation warrants.
The point is that the Lord, who's infinitely high and above us, is attempting to reach us. We could never in a million years really understand him, but he attempts to communicate with us in the only way we could grasp. Imagine trying to explain quantum physics to snail darters, and then multiply it by infinity. His first reaction to our sin in chapter three was to seek out sinful humanity, and he's been reaching out to us ever since.
Thank you Father God, for moving heaven and earth to reach out to me and pull me back to yourself. Lord Jesus, my sin is why you were hung on the cross. I desperately need your help in order to hate sin like you do.
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