Boundaries | Genesis 9:1-7
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” Genesis 9:1-7 | ESV
Perhaps one of the most apt ways to characterize the world before the Flood is without boundaries. Angels (perhaps) leave their domain and choose cohabitation with any female humans they wished; the Nephilim were running rampant as they made a name for themselves; perhaps even animals had completely run a muck (dinosaurs, anyone?); violence spread everywhere. The Hebrew word translated “violence” is hamas (not making that up), which one lexicographer defines this way: “the cold-blooded and unscrupulous infringement of the personal right of others, motivated by greed and hate and often making use of physical violence and brutality.” No boundaries. Nothing sacred. People expendable. Life cheap. As God and Noah have their first post-flood conversation in a new world, it seems God is most concerned with creating new boundaries where they had not existed or been respected before. An increasingly predatory, violent animal kingdom is restrained by a new fear of man; man’s wanton violence against man – evidently encouraged by the compassion shown to murderous Cain – will now hopefully be held in check by the stiff penalty of a life for a life. Human hands that violently take another human life made in the image of God will themselves fall into other human hands as divinely appointed executioners, essentially laying the foundation for government by the human state. And humanity now has more on the menu. Animals are fair game – only even their blood is not on the menu. Even as God is telling humanity to spread out beyond all imagined and self-imposed physical boundaries, God seems highly concerned with establishing some clear moral and ethical boundaries. As one scholar observes, “The destruction of the old world calls for the re-population of the earth and the remedying of the ills that brought on the Flood. Society must henceforth rest on more secure moral foundations.” Hopefully one lesson will be absorbed by humanity in the aftermath of the flood: life without healthy boundaries will quickly and irrevocably end up as big a destructive mess, as a mighty river without banks. A good reminder in this or any day.
Where in your life are you most sensing the need for establishing or re-establishing some healthy boundaries? How will you identify what boundaries need to be set – and where?
God, show me where I most need healthy boundaries in my life. Give me your wisdom to see what they need to be, the courage to put them in place, the tenacity to maintain them, and the grace to realize when they need to be shifted again as you would lead. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.