Sometimes I read a verse that just challenges me. Typically when this happens, I am forced to blind of the forest on account of all the trees, or rather I miss the larger point of a passage because of my inability to get over one line. Genesis 6 provides just such a verse.
And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. (v. 6)
See what I mean? I read that and just can’t get off it. Pity too, as the story of Noah is full of symbolism and great narrative. It speaks of the importance of marriage in God’s divine plan and contains the forerunner to Isaiah 53:6 in verse 12 with the line “all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”
Yet anytime I read chapter 6, none of that matters. Why? Because I can’t get over the idea of a God who regrets. I don’t like the idea that God can have a change of heart, because deep down inside I wonder, “what happens if He changes His mind about me?”
I think the problem really comes down to the baggage that each of us have with the word regret. Somehow we have convinced ourselves that the word should be used to describe mistakes we’ve made or things that we’d do differently if given a second chance. However, the true meaning of the word is nothing like that.
Have you ever heard someone use an expression like “I regret to inform you that…” How can a person wish they had done something differently while simultaneously doing it in the first place? Once your brain recovers from that last sentence, you’ll realize that one who uses regret in that way is simply acknowledging the heavy heart with which he must deliver some piece of news.
The true definition of regret in our language is to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over. This lines up with scripture as well as the word for regret here is the word nacham which means to console yourself or to grieve.
Here’s the truth: God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). The bible says He’s the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). James 1:17 says that with Him there isn’t even a shadow of turning. His love never ends and the same love he displayed for you on the cross 2,000 years ago he offers you today.
Hopefully you will be able to see as I do that the heart of God that is on display here is not one of judgment without mercy. Rather, this is a deeply hurtful and personal experience for God. Necessary, yes. But still hurtful. Nearly every person alive at the time, people He created in His image and loved unconditionally, would be wiped off the face of the earth. It had to be so, so that He could save them from themselves, but the act of it broke His heart.
My comfort through all of this, is that I serve a God who grieves about the evil found in this world even more than I do. It makes me realize that we are not alone, and more importantly, that we are not home yet. I hope that he finds me faithful as he did with Noah. However should I ever stumble I am reminded that while God grieves for me, because he came to give me an abundant life that can only be found in service to Him.