Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Good Old Days

“Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years’ ” (Genesis 6:3).

Ah, the good old days! Anyone who has had a Grandparent has probably heard that phrase, or at least some variation on the theme. Talk to any “old timer” about current events and you’ll soon be regaled with tails from “the good old days” that will serve to illustrate to you just how bad things have gotten over the years. Things just ain’t like they used to be…

We’ve cured polio, walked on the moon, and seen evil empires rise and fall - but things just aren’t as good as they used to be back in the good old days. As I grow older, I even find myself slipping into this annoyingly amusing stereotype, especially when confronted with some unexpected change, or the thought of society‘s relentless, entropic moral decay.

Noah, though, had he commented on the decay of society, would have had a much better case than any of us living today. Holy Scripture tells us that, after the Fall of Man recorded in Genesis 3, things sort of just kept going from bad to worse. In chapter six, we are told that the situation had reached critical mass:

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the 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 (Genesis 6: 5-6).

What an incredible thought. God, the creator, who had formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed life into his nostrils, was so disturbed by the sinful state of man that his “heart was filled with pain”. God made plans to wipe man from the face of the earth.

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" (Genesis 6:7).

What does this sad scene teach us? Two important things we should all come away with here are, 1) The Spirit of God works in the heart of fallen man, and 2) There is a limit to God’s patience.

From the time of The Fall, God strove to regain mankind. His plan, as explained to Adam and Eve in the garden, was that one of Eve’s “seed” would crush the serpent’s head - defeat Satan once and for all and restore mankind’s relationship with God. From that time, the Spirit of God worked in fallen man to lead him to repentance and trust in God’s promised redeemer. Indeed, when Eve became pregnant with her first son, Cain, the very name given to him evidences Eve’s faith - “Cain” means “I have the man, the Lord”, according to Luther’s translation. Eve believed that her son was the fulfillment of God’s promise. Unfortunately, Cain would not live up to his mother’s expectations. A few other examples, besides Eve, of those who began, after the Fall, “to call on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26) are Abel, Seth, Enoch, and eventually, Noah.

The majority of mankind, however, resisted the Spirit of God. Over time the world slipped into the depths of depravity and wickedness described in out text. The “good old days” of Eden were long gone. By the time of Noah, God’s patience had reached it’s limit.

Things work pretty much the same way today. God’s Spirit is at work, calling sinful fallen man to repentance. Everyone who hears the Gospel of Christ - the redeemer promised to Adam and Eve - is called to eternal life through that Gospel. The Spirit, just at it did in the days after the Fall, struggles with man and urges him to turn from sinfulness and seek forgiveness, and true righteousness in Christ.

Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).

God’s Spirit is doing this work right now through the words of Holy Scripture, creating faith in the hearts of men who do not reject Him. He is striving with the heathen - and with the believer - calling them to repent, to trust the Savior, and to follow Him.

…his [man’s] days will be a hundred and twenty years (Genesis 6:3).

None of us knows how long we will live; Our Lord could return at any time. Today is the day of salvation, as scripture says. Just as in the days of Noah, when God declared there would be an end to the grace period, so it is with mankind today. There will come a day when the opportunity to take advantage of God’s offer of Grace through Christ Jesus will be gone. Do not be left outside of the ark.