Genesis 9-10, Matthew 5

A Holy God & Sinful Man.

Genesis 9-10, Matthew 5

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. – Matthew 5:21-22 ESV

Noah and his family survived the flood, but they would quickly find themselves deluged with the constant presence of sin. While the majority of the population had been wiped out in God’s judgment, the small remnant of people who made up Noah’s family were more than adequate to repopulate the planet and provide a steady supply of sin to recontaminate the world. But God would remain faithful.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God kept His word and protected Noah and his family from the devastating consequences of the flood. He even made a covenant with them, promising to never destroy the earth again by means of a world-wide flood. This covenant was ratified with Noah, but included all the creatures who had survived the flood as passengers on the ark. God knew that sin was still present on the earth. He knew that man was still prone to sin and that the flood had not eradicated the root problem of sin from the earth. But in spite of all that, He was willing to make a binding covenant with Noah and his descendants, promising to never bring another world-wide flood on the earth again.

God’s original command to Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth still stood, and God passed it on to Noah and his sons. After they exited the ark, God blessed them and commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1 ESV). Chapter ten of Genesis provides a genealogical listing of how Noah’s three sons fulfilled this command, multiplying and spreading across the earth. Animals, birds and mankind alike, procreated and repopulated the environment. But God gave Noah and his sons an interesting warning. Something had changed since the time He had created the world. When He had placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, He told them, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:29-30 ESV). But in the post-flood environment, something had changed. God now told Noah and his family, “All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables” (Genesis 9:2-3 ESV). Man’s diet was now expanded to include birds, fish and animals. But God placed a very specific restriction with this newly expanded diet. “But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it” (Genesis 9:4 ESV). God, as the creator of all life, put a high priority on life, and designated blood as the symbol of life. Man was restricted from eating any animals that had not had their blood drained from them. The blood was to be spilled, symbolizing the loss of life. And this concept of spilled blood would play a significant role in the history of God’s people for generations to come.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Knowing that mankind will end up taking this newly expanded dietary opportunity and pervert it, God warned that all those who took life would be held accountable. He established the principle of a life for a life. Human life was  precious to God and it was to be treated with care. God would not tolerate actions like those of Cain who murdered his brother out of jealousy. So He changed the rules, saying, “And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die” (Genesis 9:5 ESV). Man was made in the image of God, and no one was permitted to take the life of man but God. In time, God would establish laws and civil government as a means to legislate this decree. The problem with sin is that it eventually leads to loss of life. Sin is ultimately destructive in nature. It never leads to life, but always to death. Jesus Himself warned that the enemy came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), but that He came to bring life.

Man requires rules. Left to our own devices, we will gravitate towards sin and end up behaving in ways that are not only self-destructive, but harmful to others. But God requires more than rules, He demands righteousness. Laws don’t change the heart of man, they just regulate behavior. Laws restrict, but they don’t reform. When Jesus showed up on the earth, He revealed that the laws given to regulate the behavior of men were inadequate. In His great Sermon on the Mount, found in chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus spoke these startling words to His listeners: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brotherwill be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV). At the heart of murder is anger. To simply restrict someone from murdering another person does not alter their desire to do so. It merely reigns in and restricts their desire. But Jesus came to change all that. He came to provide mankind with a means to live differently. He came to offer heart transformation that would lead to true behavior modification. Apart from Christ, men require rules to control them. But for those who are in Christ, our behavior is regulated by the Spirit of God. Our motivation is internal, not external. God’s standards for His people are high and lofty, far greater than any set of rules to regulate and enforce. Holiness can not be legislated, but must be motivated by the presence and power of God within the life of the individual. Right living must be based on a right relationship with God made possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Without Christ, I would be sin-prone and self-destructive. I would be left trying to live my life by a set of rules I can’t keep and attempting to live up to a set of standards I could never achieve. I am a rule-breaker by nature. I don’t want to abide by God’s laws. And like every man who has been born since the flood, I would be hopeless and helpless had it not been for Jesus’ death on the cross. He shed His blood so that I wouldn’t have to have mine spilled. Because until I placed my faith in him, I was just as guilty as the rest. I was guilty of anger and therefore, guilty of murder. I was condemned and worthy of death. But Jesus allowed His blood to be spilled instead of mine. He allowed His life to be taken in place of mine. He died so that I might live. God, in His rich mercy and grace, provided a means by which I might be made right with Him, when I could never have pulled it off on my own. He gave me a way to live a brand of righteousness that is far greater than anything the Pharisees or even Noah was able to pull off. It’s not a righteousness based on rules and regulations, but on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. He gave me His righteousness in exchange for my sinfulness. He covered me with His cleansing blood and clothed me with His righteousness, so that I might stand before God as holy and wholly acceptable to Him.

Father, You alone have made it possible for me to be made right with You. Thank You for sending Your Son to live the life no other human being could live. He lived without sin and so made a perfect sacrifice to pay the price for all the sins committed by mankind, including mine. So I can live righteously, not because of a set of rules I keep, but because He has placed His Spirit within me. My motivation is internal, not external. And I am grateful. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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