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Is the human heart evil from childhood?

Columbia Biblical Studies: Friday, August 29
Columbia Biblical Studies: Friday, August 29
George Hodan

Today’s bible study is Genesis 8:21: The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: Never again will curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

Genesis is always a difficult book to grapple with since it is in the Old Testament. The New Testament filled with the love of Jesus Christ, is generally far easier for us to understand and accept. But Genesis can be very hard indeed.

What is the pleasing aroma? Theologians often consider this to be asavor of rest. God was delighted and well pleased with his sacrifice, which was offered up in the faith of the sacrifice of Christ; the apostle says, 'is for a sweet smelling savor,' (Ephesians 5:2) referring to this passage; that being a satisfaction to the justice of God, an appeasing of his wrath, and a propitiation for the sins of men.

So, with God aware to the sweet smell of the satisfaction of justice and the propitiation for the sins of humans, we can hope to see a benevolent God, since He stated that He will never again curse the ground because of humans. Although many theologians tend to believe this thesis, I find it a bit difficult since Jesus had not yet been born nor sacrificed at the time of Genesis. This is certainly worth pondering in your own hearts and may produce no concrete answers.

I find it hard to believe that God cursed the ground that humans walked upon, because He created both it and them. God created humans with all their frailties and, despite our weakness, we are products of His divine inspiration. We simple humans often curse the work of our own hands. I have thrown away recipes that have not turned out right, shredded poetry that simply didn't work and given up on paintings that weren't coming together. If we can give up on our small creations, God can also give up on His creations – us. But He doesn't. He loves us, accepts us and cherishes each of us.

Now we come to yet another difficult line, that being: The human heart is evil from childhood. We have to remember that this is Old Testament writing. The New Testament sheds a whole new light on this concept. Some of us are taught about original sin and believe that human beings have been evil since the time of Adam and Eve. Others, in fact many, believe that a child is born innocent and free of sin. It is difficult for me to think of childhood as being evil. For most of us, it is a time of growing, playing, learning and developing. It is not a time of evil, but rather of a blank slate to be written upon by experience conditioning and nurturing. The child who is brought up by Christian parents in the ways of the Lord will suffer very little evil. Of course there is evil in the world, but it does not have to be a thing of childhood and should not be so.

Finally God says that He will never again destroy all living creatures as He has done. Again, we have a bit of a dilemma with the famine, the plague of locusts and the flood of Noah. But, we must admit, that not all creatures were destroyed. Some were saved to carry on the human race and those of many species of flora and fauna. Can we think of God as the song says as, ‘rolling His sleeves up’ and creating a man? It’s an interesting idea. We have probably all destroyed some things that we have tried to make and redone them over and over. Is it possible that in the beginning God did this as well? Is it possible that he actually took a lump of clay and created something that he did not like and had to remake to suit His purposes? Anything is possible. Perhaps, we shall never know.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock, The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur, Concise Bible Commentary, David S. Dockery, General Editor

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