Why Not Harsher Treatment?

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” – Genesis 8:20-22

Cactus After a Freeze #2 | Fredericksburg, Texas | April 2021

Mr. Tietz was a Lutheran School Principal at my vicarage congregation in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He had a wonderfully quiet manner and very large impact. During the lunch period, with more than 100 children in the cafeteria, he would walk in and begin speaking. In a very low voice. And the cafeteria would quickly become quiet. It was amazing. I tried to learn from him. Try to out-yell a group of junior-highers and you’d better have a bull horn!

Are you a harsh disciplinarian, or a soft touch? Do you get big and loud to reign in unruly students, or let them run wild? Admittedly there is a time for loud and in-your-face assertiveness. But there is a mystery here: the greater work is done in the quietness of someone’s heart than in the blast of the high-and-mighty voice. 

God shows this to be true in his response to the worship of Noah and his family. His response to the sinfulness of us human-types is remarkable: “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

Is God admitting failure in his diluvian wrath, or is something else at play here? Admittedly it appears that God is – upon reflection – becoming a softy. He’s had second thoughts about destroying all living creatures except those on Noah’s ship. But there is another explanation. And it has to do with the difference between whether you want people’s compliance or their hearts.

God wants our hearts; not just our outward compliance to his laws. Jesus makes this point when he warns us that we can commit adultery simply by looking upon a woman lustfully, or murder by holding hatred for another in our hearts. Sadly, we can be outwardly compliant while inwardly harboring hatred and resentment in our hearts for God. God wants our hearts.

That is made clear by his assessment that, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” This shows God’s tender heart toward us broken and fallen creatures. He could simply determine that his “experiment” of creating man and woman in the condition as he did was a flop. He could decide to start all over from scratch. But he did not. In stead, he reveals a grace and mercy to sinful men and women.

It’s not just that we can’t help ourselves from sinning (though we cannot). It’s that God has a better plan, and has had so all along. I’ve shared the idea before (from Philip Yancey, I believe) that the Old Testament is a giant object lesson of what doesn’t work. Direct communication with God doesn’t work (Adam and Eve). Having a king doesn’t work (Manasseh). Prophets who speak for God don’t work (Matthew 23:29-31).

God want’s our hearts, broken and sinful as they may be. For a heart yielded to him in any condition will be healed, redeemed and made new. God has a heart for us. It’s big, merciful, and full of love and grace. And he shows us that in Jesus who died to free our hearts from our sinful ways.

Click here or on the podcast player below for an audio version of this blog post.

The Gale Force Wind of the Spirit David Bahn – Reflections

We cannot believe in Jesus or come to him by our own reason or strength. But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel and enlightened us with his gifts. And that same Holy Spirit has inspired believers down through the ages to share the Gospel message. And we are the recipients of his work. The gale-force wind of the Spirit is still blowing. And even today, as God promised through the prophet Joel, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
  1. mkzirian@att.net said:


    Sounds like you and Diane are enjoying retirement. I particularly like this bible verse. Am confused about how it matches up with the end days referred to in 2nd Peter and Revelation. Any advice?


    • Hi Michael! We are enjoying retirement. Thanks for checking in. The key to understanding this, I believe, is in the phrase: “While the earth remains…” Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Peter speaks of the end times as when the the heavens and earth will be destroyed. So the phrase, “while the earth remains,” is the key. Things will continue as normal until The End. Most important is Peter’s reminder that God is patient “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

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