Does God make concessions to be involved in your life? Perhaps you’re not comfortable using the word concession regarding God. Alternative words like accommodation or compromise feel equally difficult to apply to God. Yet doesn’t it seem that some uncomfortable terms must be necessary for understanding how a perfectly holy God could be in a relationship with sinful beings like ourselves? Consider this in light of three main events from history:
1. God’s Decision to Create: (Gen. 1-2) The language of deliberation:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).
2. God’s Decision to Destroy: (Gen. 6:13-22) The language of remorse and regret
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them” (Genesis 6:5-7,12-13).
3. God’s Dramatic Announcement: The language of concession
“‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease’” (Gen. 8:21b-22, NIV).
Question: What does this assume in relation to Genesis 6 (divine remorse and regret)? Is God making a decision to live with the inevitable grief and pain as things return to pre-flood conditions? “
Here is the paradox: God inundates the earth because of man’s sinfulness, and subsequently promises never again to destroy the earth because of man’s sinfulness” (The Book of Genesis chapters 1-17, NICOT, Victor Hamilton, p. 309).
Question: How much did it grieve God to have to execute the flood judgment?
“‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God, Therefore, repent and live’” (Ez. 18:32), “‘As I live,’ declares the Lord, `I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live’” (Ez. 33:11), “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:3-4cf. cf. II Pe. 3:9); 1 John 2:2: Christ died for the sins of “the whole world” —the same “whole world” that “is under the control of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19) and that Satan will lead astray (Rev. 12:9).
Big Question: How much grief has God endured since His concession in Genesis 8:21b-22?
“Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for their idols. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their detestable sins.” (Ezekiel 6:9, NLT); What does it mean that people “resist” (Acts 7:51), “grieve” (Ephesians 4:30) and “quench” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) the Holy Spirit? Genesis 6:1 opened with the divine declaration: “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever” (6:2).
In this message, I will offer some very important personal and historical applications. Notice the overview of these applications;
- Recite this truth to yourself everyday – “He does not treat us as our sins deserve… As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:9, 13-14).
- Be realistic about life in a world filled with people described in Genesis 8:21b-22. (II Corinthians 4:7).
- Keep the big picture (the gospel) in front of you at all times. God solved our biggest problem: “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26; cf.II Corinthians 5:17-21).
- In setbacks and hinderances, look for opportunities to lean hard on the grace of God (II Corin. 1:3-4; 12:7-10).
- “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). “love your enemies (Matt. 5:44-45). James 2:13- “… judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Romans 12:19-21- “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Historical applications: (Everything in history is affected by Gen. 8:21b-22)
- God works with people where they are. Starting with those in Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultures with their fallen social structures and hardened hearts, God meets people where they are.
- The Old Testament law is concessionary to ANE social structures and it is not meant to be a final guide to humans (cf. The New Covenant, Jere. 31; Ez. 36, Hebrews). The OT days are summarized as times when God “let all nations go their own way” (Acts 14:15); times “when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past ” (Romans 3:25-26); times when “endured with much patience vessels of wrath” (Romans 9:22-23) and times when He “overlooked such ignorance” (Acts 17:30-31). “I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality” (Revelation 2:21). Unpack the significance of these statements from God’s perspective. And yet what did Paul mean: “He (God) is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:28)
- The Old Testament characters are not to be emulated in all their actions (I Corinthians 10). Do not assume that was is described is also prescribed.
- There is discernible moral advance in the progress of Biblical revelation from OT to NT. Why didn’t God require everything to operate on the teaching of Jesus in the OT: Consider: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36); “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:44-45). Perhaps the heart of this teaching is in the OT, but again, God is taking people where they are in ANE cultures and guiding them toward His perfect will.
- Jesus on marriage and divorce: When questioned about divorce (Matthew 19:3-9), Jesus started with God’s ideal for marriage from the book of Genesis. He also arguably added “punch” to the ideal when He said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (v.6). He then explained what Moses “permitted” due to the hardness of human hearts (concession). Finally, he made his own concessionary exception to the strengthened ideal of Genesis but this time based on marital unfaithfulness.
- Do not misread God’s patience (II Peter 3:3-9)
As it was in the Days of Noah so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:37-38).