bible blog 1628

GENESIS 8 (Schocken Bible trans)

God spoke to Noah saying:

Go out of the Ark, you and your wife, your sons and your son’s wives with you,

all living things that are with you, all flesh, birds animals and all crawling things that crawl upon the erath,

have them go out with you,

that they may swarm upon the earth, that they may bear fruit and vecome many on the earth.

So Noah went out, his wife, his sons, and his son’s wives with him,

all living things-all crawling things and all birds, all that crawl about on the earth

according to their clans they went out of the Ark.

Noah built a slaughter siite to YHWH

He took from all pure animals and all pure birds

amd offered up offerings upon the slaughter site.

And when YHWH smelled the soothing savour

YHWH said in his heart,

I will never again curse the soil on humankind’s account, since what te human heart frms is evil from its youth,

I will never again strike down all living things as I have done

never again, all the days of the earth

shall sowing and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter

day and night

ever cease.

In bold style, the author now attends to the feelings of God. In Genesis 6:6 he desceribed God as repenting his creation of human beings, now he shows God comforted by the smell of sacrifice. This is a human gesture which affirms that the earth belongs to its creator; God is relieved that things are back to normal. The moment of his wrath, his abandonment of the earth to chaos,has passed, and life still exists. He has been able to protect it from the force of his own anger.

We shouldn’t be too ready, as scholars and theologians often are, to say that this is mythological language, that of course God doesn’t really like the smell of sacrifice or go over the top in his anger. We should let the author tell his story.

Now God accepts that no threats will be enough to force human beings into goodness. There is evil in their hearts which cannot be eradicated in that way, so God will never again use that strategy. This is a profound recognition by God: an acceptance that in creating creatures in his likeness, he has made a being capable of unndoing the goodness of his creation, whom he can destroy but not compel. Theologians say God does not change and knows everything before it happens, but this “God” does nor foresee the problems human beings will make, and he therefore changes his strategy a number of times. We should not try to be more reverential than scripture but rather listen to the story as it is told.

At this point God does not reveal how he will restore goodness to the human heart and to his world, but he decides that another Deluge would be a bad idea. In the book of Genesis the original authors and the final editor are master theologians who work by means of storytelling rather than argument or definition. Those who have ignored this truth have misinterpreted their work and made nonsense of it. For this reasom we may reject the doctrine of original sin as unbalanced and unbiblical – God’s blessing is original not human disobedience- but we should not then make the Genesis author into an optimistic liberal: “what the human heart forms is evil from its youth.” This sad conclusion of God has to be set alongside his original blessing and his continual faithfulness to his creatures. In a time of appalling evil and violence, such as now, we are ever ready to judge our enemies as evil, but hardly ever ready to see ourselves in the same unsparing light. 

MARK 4

This is the tranlsation by John Darby amended by me

24 And he said to them, Take heed how you hear; for the measure of attention you give, will determine what you receive; and there shall be more added to you.
25 For whosoever has some, to him shall be given; and he who has not much, even what he has shall be taken from him.
26 And he said, Thus is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast the seed upon the earth,
27 and should sleep and rise up night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he does not know how.
28 The earth bears fruit of itself, first the blade, then an ear, then full corn in the ear.
29 But when the fruit is produced, immediately he puts in the sickle, for the harvest is come.
30 And he said, How should we liken the kingdom of God, or with what comparison should we compare it?
31 As to a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown upon the earth, is less than all seeds which are upon the earth,
32 and when it has been sown, mounts up and becomes greater than all herbs, and produces great branches, so that the birds of heaven can roost under its shadow.
33 And with many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear,
34 but without a parable he spoke nothing to them; and in private he explained all things to his disciples.

Mark continues with his view that Jesus used parables to teach the crowds but explained them more explicitly to his disciples. That seems unlikely to me, but Mark is making the point that those who are committed see things differently from those who are not. Openness to commitment determines what a person hears of Jesus message. Those who give no real attention wll hear nothing. Unfortunately, as  Mark will show us, even committed disciples can refuse to listen to their teacher.

The two seed parables given here portray the Rule of God’s goodness on earth a) in respect of its process of growth and b) in respect of its tiny beginnings and future spaciousness. 

The growth of Gods goodness is, according to Jesus, secret, natural and certain; it occurrs without war-plans or strategies for maximising business potential.  Once a person becomes a seed of God’s goodness, fruitful growth is certain but not initially obvious. We may remember that Jesus also taught that the seed has to go into the ground and die, before it can grow.

God’s goodness on earth starts small, Jesus says, like the mustard seed. People should not look for dramatic proof of its presence. Because it requires the assistance of human beings it has to start with those who trust it, one by one. Afterwards it will be evident, sheltering many.

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