Leave and Go (Genesis 8:13-19)

In the six-hundred-first year of Noah’s life, on the first day of the first month, the flood had dried up. Noah opened the hatch of the ship and saw dry ground. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the Earth was completely dry.

God spoke to Noah: “Leave the ship, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives. And take all the animals with you, the whole menagerie of birds and mammals and crawling creatures, all that swarming extravagance of life, so they can reproduce and flourish on the Earth.”

Noah disembarked with his sons and wife and his sons’ wives. Then all the animals, crawling creatures, birds—every creature on the face of the Earth—left the ship family by family. (The Message)

The ancient story of Noah recounts a devastating universal flood—a story that began with problems akin to those in our present contemporary world. (Genesis 6:5-7:24)

Violence, in the days of Noah, had become so common and widespread, that the very heart of God was pained.

The Lord saw how evil humans had become on the earth. All day long their deepest thoughts were nothing but evil. The Lord was sorry that he had made humans on the earth, and he was heartbroken. (Genesis 6:5-6, GW)

So, God decided to bring judgment, and laid plans to rid the earth of humanity. To start over, God instructed Noah to build an ark to preserve his family and a few of every animal species.

And then, it rained, day and night, for weeks on end. The flood destroyed everything. Yet, God remembered Noah and all the animals, and the waters eventually receded. Noah sent out a raven, and then a dove, to see if they could find land.

Finally, the day came when they could step out of the ark, and the Lord told Noah to step off the big ark of a ship, set the animals free, and start repopulating the Earth.

There are, indeed, a lot of ethical questions that bubble up for us as readers about the entire flood narrative. Why kill everyone, including children too young to know better, and animals who apparently weren’t the problem to begin with? And, if things are so bad, why spare anyone or anything? After all, people started the violence, and they don’t seem very changed after the flood. What’s up with that?

Yet, honestly, just asking those questions puts us on some supposed high ground of morality – something we cannot claim – as if we know better than God.

Perhaps we humans still do not yet have a collective sense of our depravity, that is, of our awful potential for acts of violence (both physical and psychological) as well as our penchant for saying and doing nothing in the face of such evil. We keep offloading the issue onto God, as if the Lord is the problem.

Keep in mind, that by God’s grace, the Lord promised to never again destroy the Earth, as in the days of Noah, and still preserved a remnant of humanity. Yet sadly, that hasn’t stopped us humans from keeping up our violent and destructive ways. Throughout the whole of human history, we seem to have to keep learning the same lesson over and over again: that our actions (and in-actions) have far-reaching consequences for both us and all the rest of creation.

The violence humans do to one another and the violence we do to the natural world come from the same place in the human heart. A good and wise God created us good. And although we are capable of great evil, as the flood story says, and as we know every day, God means for us to be transformed.

God promised not to destroy the world. Now it’s our turn to promise the same.

How can we keep such a promise? I believe we can do it by being obedient to leave the ship and step off the ark. In other words, it’s important that we leave where we presently are, and go where God calls us.

Realizing a better world, a changed life, and a blessed Earth involves our movement to leave something behind, and go to a place we’ve not been before.

The Lord said to Abraham:

Leave your country, your family, and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1, CEV)

God said to Moses:

“I have heard the cry of the people of Israel. I have seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Now, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you can bring my people Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9-10, GW)

And, as a result of Moses obeying God, Pharaoh (eventually) said to the Israelites:

“Get out, you and your Israelites! Leave my country; go and worship the Lord, as you asked.” (Exodus 12:31, GNT)

Later, God clarified the instructions for heading to the Promised Land:

“Leave this place, you and the people you brought out of Egypt, and go to the land that I promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to their descendants.” (Exodus 33:1, GNT)

Jesus instructed:

“So, what if you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that someone has something against you? Leave your gift there and go make peace with that person. Then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, ERV)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)

Why does God repeatedly tell us to leave and go? Because we tend to hunker down in our entrenched ways of bigotry and idolatry, which are the fodder for human violence, and refuse to see other people created in the image and likeness of God.

Leaving and going opens us to the possibility of connection, and thus, love. And love is the heat source which melts the polar ice cap of hate and violence.

Almighty Father, who gave your only Son to die for our sins and to rise for our justification: Give me grace to leave malice and wickedness behind, so that I may go and serve you in truth and holiness, through Jesus Christ, your Son, my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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