Broken Light

Day 7

Broken Light

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,

your justice like the great deep.

Psalm 36:5-6

Found in Genesis Chapters 6-7:1

There are stormy days when the sky weeps. And days when God is grieving with it. Days when the darkness in humankind overcomes the light that once was us. How does God’s heart so full of love, so full of goodness, witness all this breaking, broken sadness that has become His children’s reality, and not break also?

The thunder drum rolls and the lightning flashes and tears fall and fall and fall. If this stormy dark was all there was, our world would always be in flood.

YHWH Jesus God

But the darkness isn’t all there is.

As I write, this rain falls, gently, steadily outside. The grey clouds empty their grief on the earth. But their tears meet something else. A warm tropical sun breaks through, piercing the grey, all golden, all light. Like an unexpected grace.

When grief meets grace, something entirely new is born.

Raindrops continue to free fall through the light, fragile prisms mingling, spraying through blazing rays. They dash themselves splashing on the grass below, all at once absorbed into the earth, all at once broken on the bricks of our verandah. So small, so frail, so weak.  Who would have thought that tears so tiny could break anything as they break themselves apart. 

From the perspective of the valley beneath our home, these fragile tears are breaking blazing light, breaking brilliant light into a million tiny pieces. A million tiny pieces forming just one picture: the seven colours of the rainbow. When the stormy darkness meets the blazing light, something entirely new is born.

A rainbow is broken light. And so are we.

YHWH God Jesus

In the beginning, the genesis of all things God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) and there was. Light upon light upon light. Supernova star explosions pierced the dark, expelling it, flashing light, scattering star dust, forging all the elements required for life on earth1. All the building blocks of this spinning planet we stand on today were born in light, through light, by Light.

We, like our Heavenly Father, were born to live in light, alive in God’s light, in His light, seeing light (Psalm 36:9) being light (Matthew 5:14-16).

God had said “Let us make humankind in our image” (Genesis 1:26) and we were… for a while. But then the darkness fell, the light within us grew dim, and human kind has been falling like the rain ever since. From before we began to write down time, light has been breaking, the light that once was us; and we drown in floods today, not of God’s making, but of the absence of Him in human hearts, the absence of wholeness; the emptiness within, creating pain, sorrow and darkness without. Broken light.

And this is where this chapter of our story begins.

In the dark.

“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” Genesis 6:5

The story of Noah in the Old Testament begins with the story of this broken light; broken humanity breaking each other, breaking this world, breaking God’s heart.

And in the wake of breaking light, the shards fell to the ground in tears, tears that flooded the whole world with the grief of a God whose heart was broken. God’s heart full of light was full also of grief, grieving the darkness which dwelt now in humankind.

‘The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.’ Genesis 6:6

YHWH Jesus God

Regret. The author mentions it twice this regret of God (verses 6 and 7), perhaps so we will pause and hear, so we will linger and feel the heaviness in God’s words this day, the heaviness in His heart.

But words can be frail vessels within which to hold a meaning. Our English word ‘regret’ doesn’t hold the authors intentions easily.  When we regret, we wish we hadn’t done something. Our mind weaves visions of mistakes, of apologies, of backtracking and changing hearts.

But God’s heart for humanity has never changed. He has only ever and only still, wants full and flourishing life for us. The life He breathed into us in a garden long ago.

This word translated ‘regret’ relates most closely in our modern culture to an accounting realisation that the ‘books’ needed auditing2, or that a balance scale had tilted too far in the wrong direction.

The great human project had veered dangerously off course. Humankind had become corrupt and violent, wallowing in mud and forgetting the Breath that brought the mud to life. When human hearts empty themselves of the love of God, they empty out their humanity also, and the scales always tip towards the dark, tilting, spiralling. There was little left to salvage, little left to hope in, no divine breath lingering in lungs. Only mud. Only dirt. Only dust.

Pause and hear, linger just a moment and feel the heaviness in God’s words this day, the heaviness in His heart. The weight of His world, broken, spiralling, sinking. Falling.

‘The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.’ Genesis 6:6 NIV

God’s heart, ‘deeply troubled’, could equally be translated as ‘hurt’, ‘pained’ or grieved3.  Other scripture translations say “his heart was filled with sorrow”(EHV), “his heart was filled with pain” (EXB), “He was grieved in His heart” (NKJV) or “It broke his heart” NLT.

There are stormy days when the sky weeps. And days when God is grieving with it. Days when the darkness in humankind overcomes the light that once was us. How does God’s heart so full of love, so full of goodness, witness all this breaking, broken sadness that has become His children’s reality, and not break also?

It does. Break.

YHWH Jesus God

However we choose to write it, whatever words we use to describe it, God’s grief over human brokenness is deep. It hurts.  Because it was always personal to Him. We were personal to Him. Persons made in His image and likeness, His children breathing His breath, forgetting ourselves. Forgetting Him.

It hurt. His heart was deeply troubled. His heart felt. Everything.

Pause and hear, linger just a moment and feel the heaviness in God’s words this day, the heaviness in His heart. The weight of His world, broken, spiralling, sinking. Falling.

Something had to give.

“So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”” Genesis 6:7

And this is where this story begins.

In the dark.

Cain’s family line had continued and Abel’s blood had been joined by generation upon generation of further human blood soaking into the soil of Creation. They had learned  their lines by heart, family lines, script lines, shrugging shoulder lines that said “am I my brother’s keeper?”. Lines lining every human heart born into Cain’s family line, a line wandering east of the garden with God.

But there was also another family line: Adam’s renewed family line, a restored human family line where faith was the inheritance and walking with God the storyline laid down. A family line that still “called on the name of the Lord”4

One man was still living in this storyline with God.

Noah.

But Noah..…’ Genesis 6:8a

Jesus YHWH Jesus God

‘But Noah…’ his name lights like a candle in the night, burning bright in all the thickening dark. Violence, corruption, sorrow and death were not the only lines laid out. The song lines remained ‘But Noah…’ The storyline of grace.

But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.’ Genesis 6:8 NIV

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.’ Genesis 6:8 NKJV

One man, one family found favour, found grace. This small unassuming verse, with the tiny five letter word: grace. The undeserved favour of God. It’s the first time this word grace is used in the Bible. Grace; this small word, it has so much weight, weight enough to set a broken world to right, weight enough to birth a brand new beginning, a renewed creation. 

In verse six we hear the first mention of God’s grief, and in verse eight the first mention of His grace. God turns His grief to grace and doesn’t completely give up on humankind. When grief meets grace, something entirely new is born.

‘But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord’, Noah found grace, he didn’t invent it, work for it or earn it. He found it, found it in loving God, found it in calling on God’s name, found it in God’s eyes, found it in God’s heart. Noah found grace in God’s heart because Noah was living in the lineage of grace, the family lines laid out that ‘called on the name of the Lord’ and walked faithfully with Him.

‘This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.’ Genesis 6:9

Noah became the sole hope of the new family line, the sole hope for the existence of all true humankind. One man. One God. One partnership to restore a breaking world.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

So God said to Noah…” Genesis 6:11-13

“So God said to Noah…” as though this is an everyday occurrence, as though the two had been chatting all along. But isn’t this what walking with God means? Doing life with God? And this God He is not as silent as He sometimes seems. When we make space in our hearts to hear, there is a still small voice to be heard (John 10:27). Close.

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God didn’t create the world so that He could create a religion. He created the world so He could create us; to be close to Him, to glorify Him, to live a life walking faithfully with Him, loving Him wholeheartedly and thriving in His presence. He is never far from any one of us5.

Noah heard God’s voice in that moment because he was living a listening lifestyle in all moments. And because Noah was listening, God confided in him His grief over humankind.

So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” Genesis 6:13

Oxygen in lungs and a beat in a chest is not the only measure of humanity. When we lose ourselves to violence, we are already on the path to death. Humankind had known their lines by heart, family lines, script lines, shrugging shoulder lines that said “am I my brother’s keeper?”. 

God confides in Noah His plan to make things right…

‘So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.’ Genesis 6:14-16

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And nowhere in these plans does God say “build a rudder”, “make a steering wheel”, “create a compass”. Noah knew he was never the captain of this ship, nor the navigator. God was the captain at the helm of this project and Noah, like a good naval officer simply followed orders. Noah’s rudder was faith, his steering wheel, trust. 

And Noah must have looked like a crazy person building that ark, right there under a clear blue sky stretching out over bone dry land. But he did it anyway, plodding on in unquestioning obedience, living in a reality named only by the voice of God: The tangible, unseen, perceptible reality of faith…

‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…

…By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.’ Hebrews 11:1 and 7a

Noah trusted God completely, he understood that God saw more, knew more and loved more, so he put his trust in God, even as God was about to place he and his family into an ark in the middle of a raging storm.

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As God prepares to wash corruption from the face of the earth, He reached out to this one man Noah, who He had found reaching out to Him,

‘I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.’ Genesis 6:17-18

You and your family are going to be okay. I give you my word. I’m with you. I promise.

God has created, spoken, blessed, cursed, counselled, engaged and grieved, but here we have first the hint of a promise. God committed Himself to Noah and Noah’s future family line because He is a God who makes things personal. But God’s commitment to Noah is more deeply personal than sentimental attachment or fond friendship. It is deeper, wider and richer than one relationship with one man.

This God, the one who created this vast galaxy our tiny speck of a planet spins in, this God, the one who first set all the intricate workings of creation into motion, He doesn’t need anything from any of us. God didn’t have to include Noah in His rescue plan. He, being omnipotent could have found another way, a quicker way, an easier way, a way that didn’t include an imperfect human being. But even as God now destroys almost all creation because of the darkness and violence within human beings, God chooses a human being to help Him set things right.

God chose Noah and gave Noah the job, because it was actually the job all humans were first called to, the job Adam had first been given, the job of stewarding and caring for creation (Genesis 1:26-28). In completing this job Noah was fulfilling humankind’s original mandate and calling. He was fulfilling his human vocation and living fully alive as a human being. God was calling Noah to live in the God breathed Imago Dei within him.

God is always faithful. It is who He is. He is faithful to His word, faithful to His blessing, faithful to His purposes. Faithful to us. Faithful to storyline He created for us to flourish in, faithful to the song He planted deep within our hearts.

When we are faithless to ourselves, to our own beating-heart humanity, He cannot be. He is faithful to human beings, the Imago Dei within each one of us, because He cannot be other than Himself.

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,

your justice like the great deep.

You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!

People take refuge in the shadow of your wings…”

Psalm 36:5-7

This whole story of Noah and the flood, it is not the story of an end, it is actually the story of a new beginning. A story of God, not willing to give up fully on true humanity. A story of God coming into the complex messy reality of human brokenness and darkness and finding a way to hope, finding a way to fan the last flickering flame of His Imago Dei left alive in the human race. In Noah.

Noah’s job was to be human and humane, to represent God’s heart on earth, to preserve life, the job of every human being on this earth today, to steward all the created order and all the creatures in it. The job we were first given in a garden long ago. The vocation we are failing with every species that goes extinct.

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The words of Genesis chapter six weave themselves in familiar ways, ways that intentionally echo and emulate the tapestry of the first creation story, our story, threaded with all the colours of Genesis chapter one. Our chapter one. Our genesis.

“You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.” Genesis 6:19-20

The difference between these stories is that in one the animals are being created, in the other, they’re being saved.

Noah is being called to do the very thing which humankind was mandated and blessed to do in the very beginning: to care for the created world in partnership with God.

The final statement in this section of the Genesis One creation story is ‘And it was so’. The final statement in Genesis 6:22 is…

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.’ Genesis 6:22

The world obeyed God in the ordering of life, and Noah obeys God in the saving of it.

And this theme repeats again and again throughout this flood narrative, Noah’s faithful obedience to God’s word. Noah doesn’t query, doesn’t second guess, doesn’t doubt, doesn’t ask for signs, doesn’t question his capability to do all God has asked. He obeys.

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We alone in creation are created with a purpose, a vocation, a calling, a mission to be fulfilled in partnership with God. God could have renewed creation without Noah, but He respected the true calling of humankind still alive in Noah too much to do so. Noah alone in his generation still ‘looked’ human, his heart beating in time with God’s.

‘The Lord then said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.’ Genesis 7:1

We have never understood it, never understood ourselves. There are things embedded in the Imago Dei within us that God respects, trusts, hopes in and holds in hallowed reverence. Not because of who we are but because of who He is, and who He knows we can become in Him. He respects us, respects the sacred presence of His own nature in us, our own human volition, our human vocation, our capability for great self sacrificial love and great selfless service… like His.

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God is always faithful. He cannot be otherwise. It is who He is. He is faithful to His word, faithful to His blessing, faithful to His purposes. Faithful to us. Faithful to storyline He created for us to flourish in, faithful to the song He planted deep within our hearts.

The whole story of history is God finding ways to be faithful to faithless human beings. Because faithfulness is who He is, deep, unwavering commitment and an ocean of steadfast love. When we are faithless to ourselves, to our own beating-heart humanity, to the Imago Dei within each one of us, He is not. He remains faithful. His great creative problem solving act has been to work with all our torn and broken threads and find new ways to be faithful to us with them.

How does God’s heart so full of love, so full of goodness, witness all this breaking, broken sadness that has become His children’s reality, and not break also? His heart does break. But His father’s heart also hopes. That we will reach for Him, so that we will become ourselves: Human. Imago Dei.

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Journey Further

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,

your justice like the great deep.”

Psalm 36:5-7

God isn’t faithful to the fantasies we have in our head, the ideas we have about how life ‘should’ be, or who we think we are or want to be. He’s faithful to us. The real us. The Image of God within us. Who we truly are.

Sit with this idea for a moment. What does it mean for you? What does it look like for you to trust God’s love and faithfulness?

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References, Notes and Credits

1   Kerry Lotzof  ‘Are we really made of stardust?’, Natural History Museum UK, http://www.nhm.ac.uk

2 John H. Walton, ‘The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis’ Zondervan, 2001

3 STRONGS H6087: † I. [עָצַב] verb hurt, pain, grieve (Late Hebrew Nithp. and in derivatives;  עֲצַב be in pain (rare)

4 Genesis 4:26b

5  Acts 17:26-28, Philippians 4:5, Deuteronomy 4:7

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