In a recent Preaching Matters video, William Taylor and Mickey Mantle discussed a teaching series they had shared through Genesis 5-11. One of the reoccurring themes which came to the fore was the possibility of hope for humanity in a world now filled with sin and under the curse of God.
Chapters 5-11 of Genesis spans the heights of man’s potential and the depths of his depravity. Both rising to the great construction initiative of Babel, seeking to build into the heavens to make a name for themselves, as well as the all-consuming judgment of God, swallowing evil man in swirling floodwaters. This section of Genesis is a sober assessment of the state of humanity and the potential for hope and restoration.
The importance of this diagnosis is not just for accuracy as revealed in God’s word, but it is a corrective stone of truth upon which our ministries, our initiatives, and our very lives will be built in fruitfulness or futility - and that stone is characterised by the assessment that man, in himself, has no hope.
But as with any difficult news in a doctor’s office, the harsh light of an unwanted test result is not the agent of despair. It is not the results of the scan which bear the weight of sickness, but they herald a reality that exists whether we know about it or not. We cannot escape the truth by refusing to listen any more than we can cure cancer by tearing up the results of our blood work.
Here too is the vital message of Genesis, that something is not right in humanity - more, that on all essential matters for humanity something is very wrong.
We are dynamic, creative, capable of great kindness and self sacrifice - all that is true. But we are born, and we live, and we die outside of the Garden of Eden, outside of the presence of God, outside of a restored relationship with Him. We come from the dust and return to the dust and nothing we do in the span of our lives can restore what has gone wrong.
Which is the crystallised definition of what we mean by ‘hope’. Here is the fulcrum on which our hope pivots or falls, and the crucial element that weighs into all assessments of human initiative. Not that we have no hope of being happy, or successful, but the hope which we are lacking is in reference to God. We are His creation, in His universe, and we are on bad terms with Him. Unholy blights under the right judgment of a perfectly, flawlessly, ferociously holy God.
Genesis teaches us to assess things in light of this broken relationship. To know ourselves as creatures with the unique dignity of being in the image of God, as well as the distinct plight of facing the wrath of God.
So then all the energy we expend and the ministries we pursue can be good, successful, impressive, satisfying, but if they do nothing to restore relationship with God then they are, in the truest sense, utterly hopeless.
Then the sweet note of radical grace is sounded all that much louder and clearer when we come to God’s Covenant with Abraham. That in love, in extreme mercy, in radical undeserved kindness and grace, God takes initiative to chain himself to sinful man in unbreakable promises. Promises to bless and not to curse. The love of God is dazzling in stark relief to man’s profound inability to make restoration with his Creator.
Here at last is hope, true hope, full hope. Hope that does not disappoint, hope of life, of re-entry to the presence of our great God, and all the gamut of joy that comes with knowing Him and loving Him as we were made.