“Death isn’t a bug. It’s a feature!”
I stink at golf. But apparently, not as much as some guy named Mulligan. I have no idea who this guy was, but everyone familiar with the game is also familiar with the fact that if you hit a ball badly, you can yell “Mulligan” and try again with a new ball. I can only assume this is a time-honored tradition that began with an actual guy named Mulligan. Of course, this is not allowed in professional golf. When they hit the ball badly, they yell…um…other things.
(I admit that not knowing something is no longer acceptable because of the internet, so I Googled it. See for yourself: http://www.pga.com/news/golf-buzz/how-mulligan-got-its-name)
I bring up the “mulligan” because it applies to humanity. Our heroes: human beings, kind of stink at living in general. After God kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden, they have two sons. The older son, Cain, hates his younger brother, Abel, out of jealousy. God isn’t playing favorites. He speaks to Cain and pleads with him to do right. In the very next verse, Cain kills his brother. God speaks to Cain in an audible voice, and Cain still disobeys. I can’t say I’m surprised. My three year old does the same thing.
People say that death is a punishment and a curse. In a sense, it is. But it is also a demonstration of God’s grace. Imagine if sinners were immortal. If Cain couldn’t kill Abel, what would he have done? If Cain had buried Abel alive somewhere or locked him up, that would have been worse. When sin enters the world, death is gain. It is still a bad thing, but it is not the worst thing. As the great comedian and world’s angriest person Lewis Black puts it, death is a feature. Death means that sinful people cannot torture you forever. Praise God!
With the murder of Abel, humanity descends into depravity like a child actor on the Disney channel. Our heroes are failures. They didn’t just hit a bad golf ball; they stomped on it, ran over it with a lawn mower, froze it with liquid nitrogen, and shattered it into a thousand pieces with a fully automatic assault rifle. They desperately need a mulligan. The Bible says the thoughts of humanity were “All evil. All the time.” That also happens to be the slogan for the fascist radio station.
God finds someone named Noah, and uses him and his family to reboot creation.
In other words, humanity gets a mulligan, since their first shot stunk so bad. In Noah’s story, God revisits creation themes and adds a couple more cool themes. The raging sea, which represents chaos and death, is the instrument of God’s judgment and brings death. When the land rises out of the sea in Genesis one, it is like life rising out of death. When the sea rises above the land in Noah’s story, it is like creation is being undone. But the ark rises above even the sea, showing that God makes a way to life out of death, even when death is everywhere. The rain falls for forty days and nights. The number is significant because it shows up over and over again. Every time there is testing in a difficult circumstance. Every time there is judgment. Every time there is a period of waiting for God’s salvation…the number forty is nearly always a part of the story.
As soon as the waters subside and Noah and his family and giant petting zoo are safe on land, Noah builds an altar. He offers an atoning sacrifice for his own sins and the sins of his family. I can only imagine how many sins must have occurred after spending a hundred and fifty days on a boat with seven other people and stinky animals. Just imagine having Thanksgiving with your family for a hundred and fifty days without the yummy food or football. That had to be hard. Come to think of it, that would also make a great reality show. “Eight people…one thousand animals…one big boat. Can they make it one hundred and fifty days without going completely insane? Tune in this Thursday to find out! Only on A&E!”
Afterward, Noah receives a new promise from God. “Never again shall I destroy the earth by flood”. This might sound blasphemous to climate scientists, but I don’t worry too much about those melting ice caps. The earth won’t be destroyed by flood. It’s not the rising ocean we have to fear. Even if all of New York went under water, there would still be more than enough room for all those people in Montana.
In addition to God’s promise, God gives a sign. This is important, because the sign also acts as a legal witness. It is like the signature of a contract. In this case, the sign is a rainbow. When God makes a covenantal promise, he always accompanies that promise with a sign.
So now our heroes are an endangered species with just eight people. Eight people! The evil has not been completely pruned. Sin is still at work among these grateful eight. They have just enough goodness in them to work well together. And that’s a great thing if they work for God’s glory. But it’s a very bad thing if they ignore their creator and work for their own glory. Let’s see what they do in the next blog post… (This is a great opportunity for some clickbait: HUMANITY BUILDS A STUNNING MONUMENT TO THEMSELVES. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND…PEOPLE CONSTRUCTED A TOWER TO THE HEAVENS. THEN THIS CHANGED THEIR LIVES FOREVER…)
Ah…if only Moses worked for Buzzfeed.