The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” – Genesis 6:5-7 [NLT]
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Have you ever had to admit that your good idea wasn’t really all that good? A remodeling plan and project had more potential than pay-off. A vacation turned into a Trip to Abilene.” A fancy new shiny red car proved to be lemon yellow under the hood. Ugh. Regrets. We’ve all got them.
God is quoted here as having regrets…at his own creative work. This is shocking. How can the Perfect One regret his work? How can the One who looked on all he had made and called it “very good” now conclude that it was no longer good at all. In fact, it’s so bad that he is ready to wipe out the life of all creatures – great and small. This is stunning and we ought to lean into this. Struggle with it. Ask God what he means here.
Why are you sorry you made man, O God?
One answer is clear: men and women had conspired to invent ways to do evil. They had strayed from God’s paths. They had filled the earth with people who neither acknowledged God, held themselves accountable to him, or obeyed – even outwardly – his ways. Even though the Law had not yet been given, men and women knew good and evil. And evil was having its way.
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11).
And one more layer: The word to describe God’s grieved heart means indignant rage! This isn’t simply rueful regret. This is fury and storm. This is not a good situation.
God does not change. So while we must acknowledge his sorrow in this case, we are not to think of God changing his mind about creating us and all that exists. Rather we take these words in the same way (though with a different tenor) as Jesus’ words in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38).
God’s is not the sorrow of a wrong decision. This is the sorrow and regret of wrong ways taken by those he created and loves. This is the regret of painful actions that will have to be taken – far beyond the this-is-going-to-hurt-you-more-than-it-does-me kind of regret. This is the do-not-grieve-the-Holy-Spirit kind of grief (Ephesians 4:30). It’s the daughter who throws away her innocence by running away with a bad boy. It’s the son who decides to move out of the house at 18 to go live on the street and sell drugs. It’s the man who abandons his wife for whatever convenient reason. It’s the woman who uses her beauty to bring others down to the pit of self-centered hedonism. It all grieves God.
And there is a rage behind that grief. The rage will come out soon – not just in the flood, but in a moment of unimaginable terror when the Seed of the Woman will endure a torturous death all alone. Forsaken. Stricken. Smitten. Afflicted.
This is what God will have to do to redeem us. He will show his righteous anger in the raging flood. But he will show his unfathomable love in the cross. And he will establish himself as just and the justifier of all who have faith in Jesus.
We need not test God or certainly not grieve him in order for him to prove his righteousness or grace to us. That’s been done. Perhaps we can lean into that for a bit today.
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