Genesis 9: 1-17 – Precious to God

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Bible Text: Gen 9: 1-17 |

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How valuable is life? I know that sounds like a philosophical question and there are a whole lot of practical ramification to that question. On one end of the spectrum some religions teach that all life is sacred, that’s all life humans, animals even insects. At the other end of the spectrum these are those who are such extremists they think life has no value at all. It seems to me that in the UK today there's no consensus on this subject just a lot of confusion. This subject needs to be thought through biblically. Is all life sacred? Should all killing be considered wrong? If it's not how do you make the distinction? Thankfully God himself clarifies that question for us at the time he had just saved a boat full of people.

At this point in the story of Genesis and the flood in particular the waters have receded and the Ark is now empty and the animals have begun to scatter over all the earth. (Gen 9: 1) This time it appears the fall of man has affected the original intent God had. It appears that after the flood humanity is not to subdue and will not have dominion over the earth quite like Adam did, before the fall.

The second thing is (Gen 9: 2-3) Every moving thing that lives should be food for you that's also different than before. Nothing is said about meat in chapter one. But here now God gives human beings explicit permission to eat meat.  In this passage God said to Noah you can eat all forms of meat. So, at this point God it seems explicitly allows the eating of animals for food. But alongside that new provision comes a new prohibition. (Gen 9: 4-5)

The idea being here is that life is valuable and is to be respected, but contained within the idea is the perspective that we should respect and promote life. In verse 3 we were told we could kill animals, but we are also told that neither animals nor humans must ever kill a human being. What is being said is provision has been given to allow us to kill an animal for food, but you must never kill a human being. In fact, even if an animal kills a human, God will require to see this is accounted for. In the Old Testament is clearly states that if you kill another human being then the punishment is you forfeit your life. Human life it seems is special, valuable, in fact sacred, to the point that if you kill a fellow human, you too will be killed. Some theologians have suggested that is the point at which the text says that God establishes human government. Up to this point God acted out his will sometimes intervening in events even with a worldwide flood. However, from this point forward humanity have been given limited authorly to carry out God’s commands. Prior to this there was no government, remember the law [the ten commandments] hadn’t even been given to Moses yet. This is the point at which God is begins to establish some social dictates. By these words in, Genesis chapter 9, temporal government is established. God explains that humanity is made in the image of God and that’s what makes life sacred. Human beings were created in the image of God, so humans are more than just animals. Human life is uniquely precious.

In verse seven god says as for you be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. But now he says in verse 9, as for me I will make a covenant with Noah. God unconditionally promises that he will never again destroy all life on the earth by flood. Then in verse 12 to 17 God gives a sign of the covenant and the sign of the covenant you are very familiar with. (Gen 9: 12-17) God says I'm going to give you a rainbow as a sign of that promise. Because life is precious to him, he makes an unconditional, universal, everlasting covenant with all people to never again destroy the earth with a flood again. The big point is that humans are made in the image of God and that's what gives human life it’s unique precious value.

This passage, gives us the basis for formulating a view on the value of life. If we didn’t have the Bible and passages like this then we would be able to treat people, no differently to animals. Without the bible you can easily reach a view where you are allowed to slaughter innocent people just because you decide to do so. You can even reach a point where you may decide to kill people because they don't agree with their religious views. If we didn't have the Bible you wouldn't have this sense of the value of a human life.

You and I are made in the image of God which means we are precious to God. Get those principles down and I think you have the basis for thinking through the value of all life from a biblical point of view.

It seems to me the determining factor is that we need to recognize that all our fellow human beings are made in the image of God. I submit to you that many people today get this backwards and our society is really gotten mixed up about these things recently. In some parts of the developed world it is now legal to kill the elderly of the mentally or physically disabled. I submit we're not thinking straight because we no longer think biblically and we're not thinking God's way. This determines what you think about all the great ethical issues that face us living in a modern society. This biblical teaching should inform your world view on a wide range of issues. It has something to say about euthanasia and the killing of elderly people. It also has something to say about the right to life. Whether you even have the right to take your own life because you're in pain or suffering. Or whether a society has right to take your life when your elderly and you aren't functional or profitable to that society. Or even if you are becoming a financial burden on that society.

As Christians we need to think biblically. We are precious to God if you’re a little prem baby lying in a cot. We are precious to God if you’re a 90-year-old soul lying in your bed in a hospital or nursing home. And you are precious to God because the bible teaches that all human beings are made in the image of God.

Amen

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