While this is the first chapter in the Bible devoted entirely to genealogy, it will not be the last. The question is, if we’re doing a chapter-per-day devotional, what can we really glean from this passage? At first glance, perhaps not much. However, if we reflect on both what happened before as well as after, we can arrive at least at one central theme: hope.
What we know from before is that a number of people were of Cain’s descent. We also know from our own experiences that most likely other generations from other lines also became so consumed with their own lives that they too forgot about their creator. It’s not hard to understand how society would experience a simultaneous progression in cultural discovery (via the tools, music and cities of Cain’s sons) and regression in morality by each one turning their hand to their own way (Isa. 53:6). If Tolkien said it best that “not all those who wander are lost” then certainly the reverse of that is true as well. We may appear to be on the right track and getting better outwardly, but we’re dying inside more every day.
You can be sure though, that some vestige of grace remained among a few of the people. Perhaps only as stories told to them as children, a small light of hope flickered in a few hearts of Adam’s line. And you can be sure of this as well, that just as Cain and Seth were very intentionally named, so was the eventual incarnation of this hope in the person of Noah. We don’t know exactly what hardship had befallen the people then, only that Noah’s father Lamech said this about his son’s birth…
Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands. (v. 29)
Notice that word ‘relief’. In fact, the word could be best expressed as comfort or rest. The idea is that life was oppressive, perhaps monotonous, and very difficult and Noah’s life would bring about a change to all of that.
I know it can be hard this side of the history to understand God’s choice in the flood. We just can’t possibly know the extent of the evil on the earth during that time. For all we know, it was as much God’s mercy as it was his judgment that lead him to destroy mankind. What we do know is this, that God began a pattern here of using those who still call upon His name as the catalyst to bring about great change. We understand this, that the challenge so eloquently issued by Mahatma Gandhi is subtly calling to us from the pages of God’s word from ancient days before. “Be the change you want to see in the world.”