I’ve been reminded of a simple method of approaching scripture that I will try to apply during these reflections as we go through the season of Lent. It is to ask three things of a passage: What does this teach about God? What does this tell us about humanity? If this is God’s message to us, what must we do or how must we change in response?
The reading from Genesis 9 comes at the conclusion of the story of Noah and the flood. We might see here that God wants to be in a Covenant relationship with people. Human beings can turn away from that relationship, and if so they perish (literally or spiritually). This is not God’s desire, but a consequence of our own choices.
In the story of Jesus’ baptism and temptation at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, we see that God is a gracious Father who declares his love and favor for his Son. When Jesus declares how the gracious love and purpose of God has come near to the people, we are called to trust and act upon that good news as wholeheartedly as does Jesus! But immediately this grace and obedience is put to the test – to be human is to be tempted not to embrace and trust God’s gracious purpose at work in our lives.
1 Peter 3 declares that God wants to bring us to himself, and takes action through the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ to make it possible for us to return. Peter also envisions Jesus ‘descending into hell’ when he describes Jesus going to declare God’s message to the ‘spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey.’ We might see here that people are given every opportunity to be restored to God.
Comment: It is clear that what I must do is “repent and believe” – that is – to live with trust in God, ready to obey and live as the beloved sons and daughters of God. It is also clear that I will be tempted in many ways to disregard the voice of God and listen to many other “influences” that seek to lead me away from trusting in and acting with God. Be encouraged: as the wild beasts did not harm Jesus in the desert, so they have no power over you and me. The angels of God are with us in the way of obedience.