Genesis 5-6:8 - Dissonance and Favor
[Text: Genesis 5-6:8. Pray!]
It isn’t really new, but have you ever heard two different songs mashed-up together? Imagine the music of The Beatles’ “Let it Be” with the voice of Bob Marley singing “No Woman, No Cry.” Someone else set Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education” to the music of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” You wouldn’t really expect those two things to go together, but the result is pretty amazing. It has to do with matching beats, keys and scales so that the product is harmonious and actually enjoyable (to some ears, at least). When it’s well done, there’s no conflict and no dissonance…there’s peace between the two songs.
But, as you can imagine, there are songs that just won’t work together. There are tunes that are so in conflict with each other that they can never co-exist. If played together, they will contend for your ear and if they persist, then you’ll be driven up the wall and want to get out of the room ASAP.
In a way, that’s what we’re seeing in these verses. In the beginning, God’s perfect song filled the earth. It was a song of goodness and peace and flourishing. But when Adam rejected that song and its Writer a new song was formed. As time went by and the earth began to fill with people, the two songs were in dissonance with each other. In fact, there began to be many songs as each man wrote his own song. And every new song was in opposition to the perfect song of the LORD.
And the songs of men were painful to hear. If God’s song were like Vivaldi’s “Spring” with delicate violins in perfect harmony, then men’s songs were like brass horns blaring a high, sharp C note over and over and over again in broken rhythm, trying to drown out the beautiful melody with violence and selfish force. The Scripture sums it up in 6:5-6 when it says, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” The LORD was grieved by the dissonance between His song and the evil songs of men that were endlessly repeated.
Every day I am faced with a decision. Which song am I going to sing? Will I sing a song that grieves the LORD because I’m running away from him into selfishness? Or will I seek his favor and find relief from my brokenness in His song? It comes to this: I need the favor of the LORD because I’m often singing a broken song. Like Lamech in 5:29, I need relief from the pain I endure in this life where everything I do is ultimately swallowed up in death. You might feel it, too. While we live pain infuses everything here; relationships, families, these weak bodies, work. And then our stories end like the men in chapter 5; “…and he died.”
This passage teaches us two things: First, God’s song will always win out over evil. Second, God’s song will always give life.
God’s song will always win.In chapter 4 we saw a contrast between two families; one that had run away from the LORD and one that embraced the LORD in their brokenness and lived in a relationship (called a covenant) with Him.In chapter 5 that contrast is sharpened to compare the states of the two families. The seventh from Adam through Cain, Lamech, was a murderer. The seventh from Adam through Seth, Enoch, “walked with God” – an expression of deep intimacy. Lamech, just as few generations later in Seth’s line, still hoped in the promises of God and with incredible optimism named his son Noah because he knew that humanity needed relief from its pain and suffering. We aren’t talking about a perfect family here. They were broken sinners, too. The text reminds us of that reality in the pattern of the genealogy, “and he died.” They all died broken people, but they were broken people who knew about the better song of the LORD and sought both Him and His song. Mentioned in ch. 5 is that each of these men had other sons and daughters. As we continue into ch. 6 it becomes apparent that many of these other children must have abandoned the Song of God and joined themselves to the family who had been running from the LORD.
i. 6:2 is the key to understanding what is going on here. There are a couple of plausible interpretations (ask me later about the other one) but the point is the same. The “sons of God” are the members of the line of people who have embraced the LORD. The “daughters of men” are from the line of Cain and we already know from chapter 4 that his family has been singing its own miserable song for a long time.
ii. You might be thinking, “Okay, Sam, what’s the big deal? Some guys saw some pretty girls and they got married. What’s wrong with that?” We aren’t given specifics but there’s a repetition of something we’ve seen before that tells us that there is some destructive sin going on here. The word for “attractive” in v. 2 is literally “good.” So the men of the godly family “saw…(something) good…and took” what they wanted. That’s the same thing that happened a few years before in the garden when Humanity “saw…good (fruit)…and took” what they wanted and rejected their good God in the act.
iii. So, the offensiveness here doesn’t just lie in the implied sexual sin. Beneath that sin is something much more offensive to God; the rejection of Him and His song in favor of another.
iv. In v. 5 we see the broken theme of rebellion has filled the earth. It is filled with wicked actions, yes, but it isn’t innocent and good people doing bad things by mistake. No, it says that “every intention…of [man’s] heart was only evil continually.”
But God won’t let this dissonance corrupt the Song. He says in v. 3, (in the footnoted translation), “My Spirit shall not contend with man forever…: his days shall be 120 years.”
i. For him to continue to fight the utter dissonance and give up on his own beautiful song would have meant the victory of evil. And that isn’t something He was willing to do because he said that that wouldn’t happen back in Gen. 3:14-15.
ii. So, he announces his judgment in v. 7: the undoing of creation so that His song will continue and restoration of life will become possible. But can you hear the grief in his voice when he declares the judgment?
iii. Illustration: Poor losers and board games. This isn’t some selfish child overturning a chutes and ladders board when the game doesn’t go his way. This is a grieving Father whose heart is broken when he has to turn out his child whose rebellion endangers the rest of the family.
The question we have to ask ourselves is; would we want for him to have left humanity alone? Do we want a world were evil wins, brokenness is hopelessly permanent, the strong oppress the weak and the full, brutal creativity of man is never restrained?
iv. The justice and judgment of God is often cited as one of the reasons for unbelief in the Gospel. “If God was really loving then he wouldn’t judge anyone, just accept them,” some might say. But we get a glimpse into what it could be like if God wasn’t a God of justice. This would be a world much worse than we currently see, and that’s really shocking.
v. When we see this from the LORD’s perspective, we can celebrate His justice and the fact that His song will always win out. At the same time, if you are like me it’s scary, too, because I know I’m often singing the wrong song. If you’re like me, even if you don’t believe that the intentions of your heart are only evil continually, then you can probably admit that the wrong song has been a part of your life, too. We’re pretty subtle in the singing sometimes. It can be the way we favor our own comfort, physically or emotionally and ignore those around us who are hurting and in need. That’s not the Song that God sang in the beginning. It can be the way we build ourselves up and put on a mask so that others think that we have it all together instead of being honest and inviting others to really know us, for better and for worse. Each time we sing these dissonant songs, we align ourselves with the rebellion and there aren’t any half-way rebels.
So, if we want to live (not just escape judgment but actually live life as God meant it to be) then we need to learn God’s song. Because God’s song always gives life.At the end of this decidedly dark passage a ray of light and hope shines through in v. 8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.”
i. We’ll talk more about Noah next week, but what we need to understand is that Noah wasn’t nice enough, didn’t sacrifice enough, didn’t avoid enough “bad stuff” to earn God’s favor. He found God’s favor because God chose to give it to him and he welcomed it by believing the LORD. He had heard from his family about the Song of God in the beginning and how that Song made life as it was supposed to be; Living in the presence of the LORD, walking with Him; being accepted and loved by him unconditionally and letting that reality spill over into every conceivable relationship and experience. Yes, he knew the Song that offered him life instead of death and he entrusted himself to the Songmaker.
ii. That’s how the original audience would have understood this passage. Their hope in the midst of brokenness didn’t lay in making their own way in the world; no technology, no cultural advancement and no strength of force could undo their hurt or keep them from hurting others. Their only hope was in finding the favor of the LORD and living in light of His Song.
iii. Illustration: Have you seen how in epic movies there is often a musical theme connected to a certain character or place? Like in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy, each time the Shire is on screen or referenced by the characters a certain music begins to play and it calls the minds of the audience back to something grander than the images on the screen could portray on their own. I want us to begin hearing the theme of the Story we are reading, not just this chapter, but all of them together. In verse 8, God gives his favor to Noah. Literally, He gives Noah “grace.” Grace is the theme of the Scriptures, but grace is not the substance of the theme, just like the music was not the substance of the Shire…it simply called the mind to the larger truth of the Shire. No, grace is not the substance of the theme. The substance of the theme is Jesus Christ, who embodies the grace of God. He is the substance of God’s Song.
iv. And if Jesus is the substance of the Song, then he will always win out and he is the one who gives life. That gives a broken sinner like me something I didn’t have before; the true Song and a reason to sing it in my life.
v. Because Jesus came, not to judge the earth but so that whomever believes in him doesn’t need to die as a rebel singing a song of death. Those who set their hope in him and entrust themselves to him are rescued from that fate and judgment. There is nothing to do to earn this gift, you don’t even have to sing God’s song very well once you’ve heard it. You might even be tone-deaf, so to speak, but if you love the Songmaker and Jesus, His Song, then you have life in him and you have nothing to fear.
vi. Illustration: Damien and his growth in the Song.
vii. So, what song are you singing? Is it yours? Did you make it up yourself? Did you get it from your family? How’s that song working for you? Did it start off as a happy little beat but turn into a funeral dirge, sucking the life out of you? Has your song left you jaded. Was your song supposed to transform the world but nothing has changed except your frustration, which has only grown? What’s the theme of your song? Is it anything as powerful as grace? And what is the substance of your song? If it is mere happiness, that fades and disappears as quickly as it comes. If it is comfort and security, well, life has its way of disturbing those things, doesn’t it?
viii. The Song of God doesn’t change. It always gives life and it will always, ultimately win out. Jesus invites you into his Song and died to extend that invitation to you. And he rose again from the dead to renew the theme of grace offered to broken people like you and me. Let’s sing his song now, even after we’ve walked out those doors. Sing it in your marriage. Sing it in your vocation. Sing it by turning away from other songs when you realize you’ve gone back to them. Sing it in the mercy that you show to the broken people around you. Sing it not because you’ve earned it, but because Jesus gave it to you freely.