The Regretful God

Last Sunday, the first Sunday in Lent (Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary), I heard the reading out of Genesis 9. Have you read it?

Many people are familiar with the Noah story. God gets so angry with what humankind has become, how evil it has become, that God decides to destroy the entire world with a flood–creation will start anew with a clean slate. The world was formed out of the waters, and it is to the waters that it shall return to be reborn (the author of 1 Peter recognizes the baptismal imagery here, too).

God is a bit of a softy, though. To destroy everything so loved by God is too much, and so Noah and his family are chosen to be saved. You know the rest–Noah builds an ark, gathers the animals two-by-two (or seven-by-seven and two-by-two, depending on which story you are reading [and yes, there are two Noah stories interwoven in the Bible]), the flood comes and wipes everything out, and the waters recede again.

Here we come to last Sunday’s reading. In it, God vows never to flood the earth like that again. But just like us, God needs a reminder, something to keep God to the promise given. God decides to take the divine bow, a weapon of destruction, and set it in the sky, to “hang it up,” so to speak, as a reminder that it will no longer be used to kill.

When we read this story in our weekly Thursday Bible study, I commented that it almost seemed like God got angry, destroyed the world, and then immediately regretted it. God was sorry–God! Hence the promise that God would never do it again, and the reminder, just in case God gets all caught up in anger again.

Pastor Bill used this idea in his sermon, but this time, I heard another message. God regretted the destruction, and that led me to my next question.

Does God ask for our forgiveness?

I admitted to Pastor Bill that I didn’t hear the last half of his sermon. Once I hit upon this question I couldn’t let go. Does God ask for our forgiveness? I did a quick mental check in my head and couldn’t come up with a single time it actually said that God asks for forgiveness.

But in this story… all the pieces are there. God got angry and did something that God immediately regretted. God promised that it would never happen again, and hung up the bow forever. God regretted what had been done, and felt the need to make it right again. As far as I’m concerned, that would have been enough for me to forgive God.

I have to think about this more. And people wonder why I’m falling in love with the God of the Old Testament?


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