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Read Genesis 6:5-8

God had mandated humanity to fill and to subdue the earth.  Here we see a partial fulfilment of this.  Yes, humans are spreading out, multiplying and filling the earth but because of sin, instead of the earth being filled with worshippers and worship, it is now full of evil.  Where God had looked and seen in Genesis 1 that “it was good”, here he looks and sees that things are not good.  Humanity’s intentions are to do evil, to oppose God and to seek their own pleasure.  This can be summed up by the term “Total Depravity” (v5).

Wickedness grieves God. He is described here as regretting or being sorry that he made mankind (v6).  God determines to deal with this by bringing judgement  He will make a fresh start by blotting out both humanity and the creatures.  The point here is that because humans were responsible for ruling over the creatures, their rebellion has brought a damaging stain on all creation (v7).

There was one exception, a man called Noah who has been named in the family tree at the end of the last chapter (v8).  We are told that God looks on him favourably.  There is something distinctive about him. We are told a little bit more about this in verse 9.  Noah is considered by God to be righteous and blameless.

A repenting God?

Some modern theologians have argued that the description of God regretting and grieving in verse 6 suggests that God does two things, that he has emotions and that because of them, he changes his mind, he repents.

This would go against what we have understood about God, throughout the ages based on what the whole of Scripture says about him.  Theologians have used three words to describe God in this matter.

  1. Aseity meaning that God has his life and existence within and from himself. He is not dependent upon or manipulatable by anything outside of himself.
  2. Impassibility meaning that God is not subject to passions or emotions.
  3. Immutability meaning that God does not change

The third statement is a consequence of the first two. In fact, each builds on the other and is rooted in Jesus’s description of himself and the Father in John 5 of having life in themselves. If God cannot be manipulated from the outside, this means that events, circumstances or the actions of others are not going to cause God to lose his temper or become overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment, nor will he cowered into fear, none of those things that might cause him to change his course of action. 

However, Scripture is clear that God is not cold and lifeless.  Words that reflect emotions/feelings are applied to God including love, joy, delight as well as anger and sorrow.  The point is that none of those things overwhelm God or change his will.  Rather, they are expressions of his settled, eternal will. 

This means that God was not surprised by the situation in Genesis 6, he eternally knew this and so God’s settled, eternal will was that human rebellion was a cause for regret.  From our perspective, of course, it may look as though God is changing his mind, shifting his position just as we can perceive the sun to be moving through the sky when in fact, it has remained constant, it is the earth’s position that has changed.

Judgement and favour

The important point of this passage is that humanity deserved judgement and this remains true today.  Noah found favour in God and as we will see shortly, this became the means of salvation for others.  The New Testament specifically points to Jesus as the one that God looks on favourably and so our salvation is in him. 

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