One recent Sunday morning, a US Army staff sergeant left his base near Kandahar and began killing Afghan civilians. This was an apparent spasm of rage and frustration.
Some of the recent events in Afghanistan show the military mission at its worst: some of our allies’ military urinating on enemy dead, burning Qumrans, and a crazed soldier massacring civilians. We can say that most troops do not do that sort of thing, and that such events are rare, but that doesn’t change the reality of the moment. War can degrade decent people.
But human degradation is not only caused by war. There are other examples of human degradation that lead us to ask the question, ‘Is there any hope?’ Plastered over the power poles near where I live are signs warning of thieves operating in the area. In a workplace, a bully is at work, exhibiting niggling and constant behaviour at a trivial level that is slowing wearing down others.
Human degradation is a constant and a big question for us is, ‘Is there any hope?’ I recently had the opportunity of exploring this meaningful question in my local church, while preaching from Genesis 5:1 to Genesis 6:8.
The first book in the bible is called Genesis. The word ‘Genesis’ means ‘origin’. Genesis is a book about human degradation. Genesis is also a book that displays promise.
From Genesis we have the origin of our understanding of humanity, showing us that from the beginning there was something marvellous about people: something that makes us different from animals and plants. Somehow people are marvellous, but also we gain an understanding of the dark side of humanity as well. We are both wonderful and awful as a species.
From Genesis we also have the origin of our understanding of God. We begin to gain an insight into the nature of God, and how God deals with us in a world that he created. We begin to understand how God intervenes in the world for what Christians know as ‘our salvation’.
Even when Humans are Blessed there is Always a Dark Cloud
Even when we are recipients of a blessing, there is a dark cloud hanging over humanity. The Book of Genesis helps us to understand reality of human existence.
Genesis chapter five opens with the words, “This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them “humankind” when they were created.” (Genesis 5:1-2)
These two verses point back to Genesis chapter one & verse 27, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
There are words of blessing as us humans are created in the image of God. But there is a cloud: since sin entered the world, there is a cloud. That cloud is sin and sin’s effects. Ultimately sin leads to death. Throughout Genesis chapter 5 is the phrase “and he died” (v5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20.,27, 31). Death is a constant.
There is a loss of optimism.
Life in Australia can be deceptive. For the most part, the majority of Australians do not experience the constant examples of death that occur so graphically in many places throughout the world. During 2001, I had the opportunity to serve in East Timor. While I was there, I was quite frequently called to the UN Military Hospital to pray over dying local people and to pray with their families. These people knew death and tragedy amidst great hope for their nation.
It has been said that ‘Life produces hope only to see it dashed by the all too real finality of death.’
Genesis chapter 5 is known as the Sethite genealogy. This is the genealogy of blessing. There is a real contrast here to the descendants of Cain who are named in Genesis 4:17-26.
We are reminded that we are crated in the image of God. Because they and we are created in the image of God it means that we have both privilege and potential.
– As image bearers we have the capacity to hear his word.
– As image bearers, we have been given the capacity to take charge of the earth – to rule the earth.
– As image bearers we have the capacity for the possibility of an intimate spiritual relationship with the living God.
Sin has not obliterated the fact that we are made in the image of God. Our image may have been marred but it is not obliterated.
Also, God’s blessings to us has not been abrogated. The blessing of Genesis 1:28 is about being fruitful and multiplying – and it’s the Seth line that gets to do this. Seth’s genealogy shows these people living out God’s blessing, and spreading the image of God in humanity – especially noting Genesis 4:26 “at that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.”
But the dark cloud is also present. Eight times we read the phrase ‘and he died’. And in genesis chapter six there is more examples of human degradation.
So much so, that we read of a new assessment of humankind. “The LORD saw the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created – people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’ (Genesis 6:7)
Is there any hope? As anyone who sees the dark side of life – inAfghanistan,East Timorand the Police who see the dark side of life more locally, you have got to wonder, ‘Is there any hope? It is too late to think of this question when you are facing pressures and death.
There is Hope
The good news of Genesis is that from the beginning, there is hope.
We see hope in Enoch and Noah.
In Enoch Genesis 5:24 “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.”
In Noah Genesis 6:8 “But Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord” (and 6:9 “Noah walked with God”)
So why hope? How did Enoch and Noah find favour with God?
The scriptures tell us that they ‘Walked with God’.
‘Walked with God’ is a very simple way of saying that these two people had the closest possible relationship with God as if walking at the side of God.
To focus on Enoch, and to get a glimpse of how this waking with God looks,, let’s look at the letter to the Hebrews in the new Testament. Hebrews 11:5 ‘By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.”’
And the message to us is contained in Hebrews 6:6 ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, forever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’
Many of us are witnesses to the dark side of life and could ask the question, ‘Is there any Hope?’
When you find yourself in these kind of circumstances, its to late to work at your spiritual fitness. It is too late to ask if you are walking with God. This is a big question now.
So, yes there is hope, as Enoch and Noah demonstrate to us – but the message is to ‘walk with God in a close relationship with him
How do you ‘Walk With God’?
How do we walk with God today? The answer is this:
By God’s grace to us we can know God personally. John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
John 14:9 “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
We see God in his Son, Jesus, and we see God best because of his son’s death. The cross is God’s supreme revelation of himself John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
By faith you can receive Jesus and walk with him.