The many questions
Even as I learn to love the books of the Bible, to understand it more each time by the grace of God, there are so many things that still puzzle me even within the first few chapters of Genesis. The creation, the snake, the fruit, why does it sound like elements of one of those long long ago legends. What exactly was on Abel and Cain’s hearts that made Abel’s offering pleasing to God. What did Lamech’s seventy-seven fold revenge mean. Why was Enoch’s life described so briefly and what was the point of him being taken up. Who were the sons of God and daughters of men, and what were these children that they bore? Was the flood over the world in a global or local sense? Later at Babel, what exactly were the people trying to do and what about it displeased God? I don’t have answers to these questions yet, but I will write about what I do understand.
God questions, man avoids
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” – Genesis 3:9
“…Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” – 3:11
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” – 3:13
Whilst the man and woman hid from God, he sought them. Then he questions them, knowing in full what they have done – perhaps to prompt reflection and repentance. They answer, I ate, but because of the woman you put here, because of the deceptive serpant. Which is true in part, but maybe not the repentance that God seeks.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” – 4:9
… The Lord said, “what have you done?” – 4:10
Similarly, God questions Cain points out that he is not responsible for the whereabouts of Abel. Again, there is probably truth in his answer, but Cain avoids the essence of God’s question.
(I think even we can relate to this. When you ask someone why they said those hurtful words, or did something offensive, it’s frustrating to receive a cold, unapologetic detailed analysis of why it happened.)
God judges, but shows grace
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. – 3:21
Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. – 4:15
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” – 8:22
Though God in holiness, judges and punishes sin (in Adam and Eve, Cain, and later the people in Noah’s time), God in love also gives undeserved grace.
…Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. – 5:22
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. – 6:9
And later in Genesis, there are many more examples to come.
Noah did everything just as God commanded him. – 6:22
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him… – 12:4
Those who walked with God, heard and obeyed by faith. Noah constructed and filled the ark with all that God commanded, though he did not see the flood yet. Abram, later Abraham, went as God commanded: “go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” though God didn’t tell him before he set off exactly where he was going. Hebrews 11 speaks of the characters who walked faithfully with God in greater detail.
Walking in faith seems to have a mystical air surrounding it, or bring up to mind something quite specific, such as those who “live by faith” in a financial sense. Besides, as C.S. Lewis asks, how is faith a virtue – “what is there moral or immoral about believing or not believing a set of statements?”
Nothing is impossible, as long as you believe… – the line reminds me of the annoying and incompetant wizard in Oz the Great and Powerful. I think more than embracing the irrational, the characters in Genesis are commended for faith in God to make the impossible possible (such as, Abraham having his own child in his old age), based on what he has already revealed to them about his character, his authority, his greatness. Their faith is to hold steadfast onto what they know and to remain in relationship with God. Their faith is to truly live according to what they believe in, thereby seeking God’s counsel and obeying his commands in all that they do. May I recommend Mere Christianity (chapters 11 and 12, book III) which speaks clearly and beautifully on Faith:
I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasonsing tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in… Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes… That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.
(- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)