Genesis 9:1-4 “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.’”
1. GOD BLESSES FAVOURED MEN.
This is the fifth time the blessing of God is mentioned in Genesis, but here in a very personal way. “Then God blessed Noah;” those four words are a striking beginning to this chapter. Do you know what this divine blessing implies? Something of God himself, out of his very heart and nature, comes into and upon Noah and his sons. The family was facing the unknown, but God came to do good to them. The world of men had been cursed and destroyed; Noah and the new world was going to be blessed. God would be with them at every stage, in every difficulty. He would be God for them in all their needs, and as a consequence of this happening to them they became blessed men. It was not that they were men of status as the sole survivors of a terrible calamity, or that they were men of righteousness who kept the commandments of God, or that they were family men supporting and helping one another – all of which is true – but that was not the blessing referred to here; the blessing of God is not the engineering of man. If men are able to do something then that is not God at work; these blessings are only accomplished by God’s unconditional favour descending upon and energizing and transforming believing men, with no if’s or but’s to foul the waters of blessing. God’s blessing comes exclusively out of sheer, vertical, divine, sovereign grace. Noah had found favour in the eyes of the Lord, and God blessed him. So nothing would be the same again.
God’s blessing is not a sentimental feeling; it is not something warm’n’fuzzy; it is not something notional and academic; it is certainly a change of status and direction and conviction, but it is also deeply experiential – a change of affections. God’s blessing comes as the Lord does something in us. A person will testify, “I came to know the Lord Jesus, and my life was blessed.” At first there is the great definitive action affecting us deeply by regenerating us, and then progressively blessings of providence enter our lives, as our Father deals with us day after day, never stopping until we die. Let me show you examples of this from the Old Testament and the New Testament.
In the Old Testament there is a description of the effects of the blessing of God coming upon a young man whose name was Joseph and he was far from home, sold into slavery and heading into uncharted territory. In the slave market he has been bought by an army general and very soon that soldier sensed that he’d got a remarkable young man. He quickly learned he could trust Joseph implicitly and he gave him great responsibilities in his home. He put him in charge of his whole estate. Joseph was still a young man, probably a teenager, and suddenly he was carrying a load of responsibilities. Did he feel alarmed and inadequate, quite out of his depth? Surely, but we are told that God’s blessing came upon him then and there, far from his homeland that God had promised to his great-grandfather Abraham. Our text is saying that “Then God blessed Noah” – there was a specific time when the blessing occured – and now here in Egypt God blessed the young slave; we read of it in Genesis 39:2-6, “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.”
God’s blessing was tangible in Potiphar’s household. Compared to the other estates in the area there was a new spirit in this one. It was set apart from the others. There was growth and peace in everything Joseph did, in all the management of the household and estate. Everything entrusted to his care flourished; there were sweeter times in the house; better relationships between the men and women who worked there than they had ever known. They became kinder, more patient and forgiving. Work was no longer sheer drudgery. The output went up. There was no pilfering. They honest happy men and women, so different from the atmosphere in the other households. They all knew that the great change had started when this young man Joseph came to work there. He didn’t worship a single one of the gods of Egypt, and when people praised him he was ready to tell them that he owed everything to Jehovah his loving Lord, the God of his fathers back in Israel; all the new blessings at work in Potiphar’s house came from Joseph’s God.
Then in the New Testament in the early chapters of Acts, chapter two and verses 44 through 47, we are given a description of the consequences of the blessing of God coming upon the early church; “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Here are people who had once hated Christ and spurned him when he would have spread his protecting wings over them; they refused to come to him. “Crucify him,” they shouted, but then the Word and the Spirit came to them through the preaching of Peter. God’s grace visited them; they repented of their sin and cried mightily to God for his pardon and they received the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins. How differently they now lived! God had wonderfully spared them from his righteous anger for killing his Son, so their former selfishness ended.
In Acts chapter two is a remarkable description of the new blessings they enjoyed. There was genuine brotherly affection and concern. Where were there any needs in the church? When the members saw them they didn’t look away and pass by on the other side; they spotted the need and provided for their fellow believers. There was no reluctance about this; no external pressures made them do it – no heavy shepherding; there was gladness and sincerity and praise. Last week I was told of a church where people have to provide a statement of their income to the elders if they want to become members. I couldn’t join such an organization. The blessed New Testament people of God spontaneously gave to one another according to people’s needs, and the world looked on in amazement and admiration. They grew in numbers each day as God constantly saved people. There, I say, is a picture of what occurs when the blessing of God comes upon ordinary men and women who trust in him.
If you want to experience real love, true fellowship, to be amongst happy and united people, in spite of all their differences, you will find Christians are the ones who show it. It was a jibe against the early Christians that if one of them were put in prison, the rest would soon be there bringing food and parchments and praying with him. A certain pagan philosopher derided all that, but his disdain shows it happened. I read of a slave-owning Roman woman who so disliked one Christian slave’s faith that she had him tied to a rock on a high hill amongst the wild beasts intending him to starve to death. Three weeks later she sent someone to take a look at the remains. He reported that he found the man alive and well. Local Christians had brought him provisions and blankets; at night they had a rota of men who warded off the wild beasts. The rich woman relented and restored him. Men and women, if you are in real, deep trouble, you will find Christians are the ones who long to see you restored and repentant. They will help you when even your own family forsakes you. At long last you will find someone who really cares for you enough to see you at your worst and yet will love you.
An acquaintance recently attended the wedding of two British Indians. They’ve abandoned their Sikhism and Hinduism; they’ve experienced the emptiness of their old gods, priests, gurus, world views and lifestyles. They are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ; he is their God and Saviour. The two young people prayed for months to get their non-Christian parents’ agreement to keep the wedding ceremony Christian with no place for any Hindu gods, and they finally achieved this. They didn’t need being reminded of the curse of alcohol in Indian homes, nor what it’s like to be in the power of an unclean conscience. They even delayed their marriage in order not to antagonize the parents unnecessarily. God’s blessing had come upon them and they became Christians, and so these two young people have turned their backs on idolatry. God blessed their wedding day and has blessed their marriage home. Isn’t this what you want? God’s blessing on your soul, on your hearth, on all that happens in your home, on your work and in your whole life? We are told in our text, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons.” Will you not cry to this same God to bless you? Don’t go a day longer lacking God’s blessing.
Noah and his three sons and their wives were stepping into a devastated lonely world. All they possessed was what they took with them from the Ark. They needed shelter and they had to gather all their food. They needed cooperation, health, protection, creativity, patience and common sense to survive. God supplied all their needs richly. That is his blessing. Billy Bray – the Cornish miner who became a preacher – was a poor man, yet he filled his home with orphans, and to feed them he depended very much on his garden produce especially on his “taturs” – the potatoes which he grew. When he came to dig them up one year, he found there was hardly a sound one in the lot. Clump after clump were smaller than golfballs or diseased. The devil came to him and said: “Billy, do you think your Father blesses you? If your Father blessed you, Billy Bray, he’d give you a fine harvest of ‘taturs’.” Billy replied: “Why, I’ve got your written character home in my house; and it says, sir, that you be a liar from the beginning. And I’m sorry to add, that I used to have a personal acquaintance with you some years since, and I served you faithful as any poor wretch could; and all you gave me was nothing but rags on my back, and a wretched home, and an aching head, and no ‘taturs’, and the fear of hell fire to finish up with. And here’s my dear Father in heaven. I’ve been a poor servant of his, off and on, for thirty years. An’ he’s given me many blessings, a clean heart, an’ a soul full o’ joy, and a lovely suit of white as’ll never wear out; and he says he’ll make a king o’ me before he’s done.” Never even think that the Lord’s service is hard; never start dreaming about what serving any other king would be like. Here we have a multitude of divine blessings – knowledge of God, pardon of our sins, adoption into the family of God, union with Christ, a Sovereign Protector, a Providing Father, true freedom, joy unspeakable, clean lives, healthy work – as many as ever we want, more than we ask for – no unemployment is possible for the servant of the Lord. We have the best of wages and the kindest of Masters. In short, every blessing and greater still to come.
“I would not change my blessed estate
For all the world calls good or great.
And while my faith can keep her hold
I envy not the sinner’s gold.” (Isaac Watts).
A new book has come out called The Gospel According to the Beatles (Steve Turner, Westminster John Knox Press) and it is a chronicle of the Fab Four’s rejection of God’s blessing and their failure to find anything else that could fill the horrible vacuum at the heart of their lives. Two of them had been raised as Roman Catholics and two as Anglicans. All of them wanted more than they had, and they had everything money could buy. John Lennon had a Rolls Royce painted in psychedelic colours. They wanted some kind of ‘blessing’ because they had souls and were made in the image of God. So they first sought for it in the red light area of Hamburg by giving themselves to its sordid immoralities. They didn’t find it in that gutter, and they quickly moved on to smoking cannabis to get in touch with the spiritual world. It wasn’t there. They discovered the drug LSD; could they find blessing there? No. Fame itself proved not to be a blessing. Shocked at the death of their manager Brian Epstein from a drug overdose they looked for blessing in Transcendental Meditation and Hare Krishna. They started an organisation called Apple with its logo of an unbitten apple – it was their statement that they were going to return to the Garden of Eden. Their enterprise was going to be free of greed, corruption and cynicism because the Beatles believed in the implicit goodness of man. So no Apple manager would check the honesty of any of his employees or enforce the staff to start work at a certain hour in the morning. What happened? Apple was a disaster; the Apple Boutique had to be closed in six months because the staff pilfered the stock. Apple Electronics didn’t produce a single invention. The Beatles themselves couldn’t endure working together and they split up. What happened to them, the four most famous men in the world who had rejected God’s blessing and looked for blessing everywhere else? All their marriages broke up. George Harrison died of lung cancer from his addiction to nicotine; Ringo Starr was a drunk for years; John Lennon who wrote ‘Imagine’ got murdered by a ‘fan,’ and Paul McCartney is currently going through a horrendous divorce. They rejected God’s blessing and discovered there is no other source of blessing. It is not hidden away somewhere in a remote corner of a mountain in India. It is not found in chemicals, or in singing silly love songs. Their money has been a curse to them all. Oh may Paul and Ringo – and all of you also – yet find the blessing of God in his Son. Blessing is only to be found in knowing Jesus Christ as your God and Saviour. In him we are blessed with every spiritual blessing.
When the age of the Spirit was about to begin Jesus was ready to ascend to heaven, but before he did he stood before the disciples on the mountainside in Galilee and lifted up his hands in blessing over all the church. Our heavenly King commands God’s blessings to fall on us all, and fall they do! Christ’s spiritual presence with us more than makes up for his bodily absence. Blessings are God’s benedictions on his people in and through the blood of Jesus Christ. They don’t flow to us through any other channel. Don’t look anywhere else. They don’t come to us by chance. They don’t break into our lives because any of us deserve them. They are through ‘mercy all, immense and free.’ They flow from the fullness of God in Jesus Christ.
2. SOME OF GOD’S BLESSINGS ARE DEFINED FOR US.
There are two or three mentioned here;
i] The blessing that babies are.
Genesis chapter nine verse one reads, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.’” Children are a blessing; we rejoice that the world today has a large human population of more than 6,000 million people. How wonderful that is, and that it is still growing wth plenty of room for far greater expansion of men and women. The density of population in Wales is greater than it is in India. We are delighted at the statistics that declare, “Growth!” There once were just 8 people alive on the planet and today there are billions! This is not the population explosion but the population blossom. As Calvin Beisner writes, “Not the population boom but the population bloom; not people population pollution but the people solution; not cancer but an answer.” Rather than panic about the world’s large population let’s thank God for this blessing. Christians in particular should rejoice in every child God adds to their family since the Bible calls children a blessing from the Lord.
God’s words to Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth,” are disdained by many in the world today. Population growth is considered a curse. That is one of the givens of our age. One dare not challenge it. A man called Jeremy Clarke last week went to a meeting in the local Unitarian church celebrating its 300th anniversary. It was announced in the local paper and the title of the talk was “The Environmental Crisis” with a professor from Exeter University as the speaker. Ten people turned up. A brief word of welcome came from a minister; the lights were turned off, a key was pressed on the laptop and the Powerpoint presentation of doomsday began. “Since 1961 the world population has doubled from three million to six million.” Instead of this fact being greeted with delight the gloomy speaker asked the puzzled tiny audience, “Has Malthus’s question come back to haunt us?” Then the weary litany of claims of disaster were given, the spreading deserts and the melting ice-shelf and the disappearing ozone layer, one following another until none of them meant anything. The last threat was the probable reverse of the Gulf Stream turning Britain into a sub-Arctic landscape. The story is doom and gloom and the answer is Caesar intervening everywhere in the world controlling every family.
In the Western world this is the picture unbeliever are preaching. How evil the extremists are! An American woman called Molly Yard, former president of the National Organization for Women, has said, “The abortion question is not just about women’s rights, but about life on the planet – environmental catastrophe awaits the world if the population continues to grow at its present rate.” Killing millions of unborn babies is said to be a good thing, a way of avoiding worldwide disaster. Worst is to come – as David Feddes has said,
A man from Finland called Pentti Linkola takes these ideas even further. He wants governments to make abortion mandatory for women who already have two children. He wants no aid for poor countries and no asylum for refugees, so that more people will die. He thinks another world war would be “a happy occasion for the planet.” Linkola says that humanity is like a sinking ship with 100 passengers and a lifeboat that can hold only ten. “Those who hate life,” he says, “try to pull more people on board and drown everybody. Those who love and respect life use axes to chop off the extra hands that cling to the sides of the boat.” A horror of world population growth is taught in most schools; it is broadcast o, the BBC; it is found in the newspapers, our world being pictured as having too few resources and too many people. For some to live, others must die.
There are at least two problems with this view. First, it is morally wrong. It’s hateful and murderous, ignoring the value of each person made in God’s image. Second, it’s also factually wrong. In 1968 biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb in which he predicted, ‘in the 1970s the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death,” but Ehrlich was wrong. While population increased, hunger decreased. World food production more than doubled, thanks to agricultural advances. The only famines came from war, corruption, and failure to distribute food properly. [The density of population in India is less than it is in Wales.]
Population alarmists have been wrong in predicting worldwide food shortages, and they have been wrong in predicting worldwide energy shortages. It’s foolish to speak of the earth as an overcrowded lifeboat. God knows our needs, and God provides plenty of resources. We should use the Lord’s gifts wisely and not wastefully, but we can be confident in God’s care and not worry that our planet can’t sustain us.
Who can predict the new ways people will find to use God’s generous provision? If we look at people as just so many mouths to feed, our main question will be how to keep their numbers to a minimum. But if we see people as God’s image bearers, as creative producers, and if we consider each child a blessing from the Lord, then our main question will be how to support human dignity and supply human needs. As more children are born into the world, we may find ways of meeting their needs that we never dreamed were possible, and some of those children may be the very ones who make the much needed discoveries. Of all the resources God provides to help people survive and thrive, the greatest resource is other people (cp. David Feddes, The Radio Pulpit, March 2001, “Putting People First”, pp. 7-11).
Birthrates in Europe amongst white Caucasians have never in human history been so low particularly in the middle classes. This is often described as a ‘ticking bomb.’ The Muslim birth rate is three times higher than that of the non Muslims. It has been estimated that with current trends Europe will have Muslim majorities by the end of the 21st century. Dr Joel Beeke of Grand Rapids in a sermon on this passage has pointed out that the fact that God pronounced this command shows us that the Lord alone is the Giver of children. You may remember what Jacob said to Rachel when she could have no children and was filled with frustration, despair and anger, he said to her, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” (Gen. 30:2) There was nothing Jacob could do about it. The fruit of the womb was something that only God could give. We are also told that Abraham’s wife Sarah received strength to conceive. Conception was something which she was given. It wasn’t something she had of herself, even though she was a child-bearing woman. She received the ability to have children from God. God gives life in the womb.
We were in the waiting room of the maternity wing of a Cardiff hospital when our youngest daughter Fflur had her first son. Then we went to her private ward to wait for her; she was pushed back from the operating room in her bed and into the ward by her smiling husband with their newborn child. Then her husband Glyn prayed to God saying these words, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb . . . My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was wove together in the depths of the earth” (that is a metaphor for the womb). Glyn was quoting of course from Psalm 139 and verses 13 through 15. A baby is something that God knits together, as it were, to form a living soul and body in the womb. So it is of God that a woman conceives; it is of God that a child is formed in the womb; it is of God that there is a safe delivery. Children are a blessing from the Lord.
Not every couple is going to be blessed with the gift of children. God may withhold that from some and give that couple other privileges and duties. It is not given to all Christians either to marry or to have children. That is a poignant reality in our family where my oldest daughter has five sons and my youngest has three children but so far my second daughter has been unable to have any children. Our loving God has discriminated between these sisters who all adore one another. Even so Father for so it seems good in thy sight. Speaking in the most general terms, it is God’s customary purpose to bless his people with marriage and then also with children. These are precious God-given blessings and gifts. When Esau finally met Jacob, he asked, “Who are those with you?” Jacob answered that they were “the children which God has graciously given your servant.” Again Solomon in Psalm 127:3 says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord.” That word ‘heritage’ means the portion allotted either to one or to another. A heritage or inheritance is something disposed to us personally. God does not only bless us with children as precious gifts, but our children are individually and particularly given to us. In other words, there is design and there is purpose in the giving of children; and we receive the very children which have been appointed to us.
The applications of these truths are many. Let me just frame four of them from Joel Beeke’s lips by way of challenging our consciences:
I. Do you view your children as a gift? A gift from God? A gift particularly given to you? A gift given to you so that you might replenish the earth with children whom you are called to rear in the fear, nurture, and admonition of the Lord? Do you understand that your children are more God’s children than your children? Do you understand why?
II. Do you realize that when you speak lightly about having children or not having children, even joking about these things, that you are sinning by degrading God’s gift to you?
III. Are you obeying God’s command to replenish the earth, as verse 7 says, “be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it”? Or are you trying to plan out your family selfishly, so that everything turns out exactly as you desire from a self-centred perspective? I’m not saying that we are all called upon to strive to have as large a family as possible, disregarding the health of our wives or other major factors that God has providentially curtailed us with. But we do need to ask whether we see our own part in replenishing the earth with children hoping and praying that one day they will be a blessing in the earth? What weighs the heaviest in our minds: God’s covenant and command to multiply or our personal desires?
[Here in Wales this week I was reading the account of a typical worldly conversation about having children in the Spectator. The man is named Toby Young and he writes that as he was walking along with his wife and two children she “dropped a bombshell. ‘That’s it,’ she said, ‘One more baby and you’re having a vasectomy.’ ‘Erm, couldn’t you just, er, you know, go on the pill?’ ‘Why should I? Why should I retain water, gain weight and increase my risk of getting cancer just to make your life more convenient?’ ‘Why, er, why me? Why don’t you have a hysterectomy?’ ‘You can’t be serious. I’ve had two children and I’m willing to have a third. Isn’t that enough pain and suffering for one lifetime. It’s time you did something for me.'” (Toby Young, “Snip, Snip, Grin, Grin, Say No More”, 4 November 2006, p.26). That conversation is so typical of the world’s attitude to having children; both parents consider themselves to be in total control of how many children they have and when they have them. In all our lives we are either serving God or we are serving the self-indulgence of sin.] Joel Beeke asks one moree question;
IV. Do you realize that when you talk degradingly about your children or complain about them that you are sinning against the God who gave them to you as a gracious reward? Do you treat them as God’s blessing to you? God implies here in Gen. 9:1 that the increase of life is his blessing, his covenantal promise.
ii] There is a blessing in the animals’ fear of men.
I am referring to verses two and three of our text, “The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.” Perhaps before the Flood animals had temporarily lost their fear of man; they were out of control, marauding and attacking man. They no longer feared human beings. God is saying here that that has now ended and God blesses men with authority over the humbler creation.
Consider the stuff of science fiction – today some of it is better known than the Bible. Think of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds in which all the birds of the air attack mankind. There are so many Sci-Fi stories about aliens from outer space who all look like animals or reptiles invading the earth from other planets and attacking mankind. There are other stories in which animals talk and counsel what to do with man. We know from these words that it’s not going to happen that swarms of rats and insects will rise against man, because the fear and dread of man has fallen upon them. They flee and hide from men and women.
Our interaction with animals is not one equal dealing with another equal. Our relationship will never be peaceful co-existence. What is absolutely prohibited for us to do to fellow human beings we may certainly do to animals. That is the blessing God has given to us. 136 foxes were shot in a single two month period near Aberyswtwyth last year. Have you seen what foxes will do in a field of lambs? We trap animals; we hunt them; we breed animals; we impregnate them; we name them; we sell them; we heal them or we choose to put them down painlessly; we use slug repellent, fly sprays, mousetraps and mothballs; we license animals; we farm them; we train them; we use them to further medical research; we use them to carry our burdens; we cage them or we put them in tanks; we put them in nature reserves and zoos; we punish those who rob their nests or are cruel to them; we seek to prevent over-fishing; we declare some of them to be a protected species, and above all we love them. They do not do any of those things to us. We are over them by divine appointment; they are given into our hands and they fear us. To them we are like God. They have this one life and we must see to it that it is as fulfilling as possible. Above all our relationship with all the animal world is a blessing. Imagine a world without birds and fish and butterflies. That is how God has made the world but it is certainly one in which people are superior to animals. Some of the opponents of population growth are the fundamentalist environmentalists. Who are these extremists? Let us look again at what David Feddes has written about them:
They think animals should have the same rights as humans. In fact, some wish there were no humans at all. “The optimum human population of earth is zero,” said one extremist. “The human race could go extinct and I for one would not shed any tears.” Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said, “We [humans] have grown like a cancer. We’re the biggest blight on the face of the earth.” She thinks it’s wrong to have so many humans and to think humans are superior to animals. “The smallest form of life, even an ant or a clam, is equal to a human being,” she says. “When it comes to feelings, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They are all mammals. They all feel pain. There is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. .. . Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but 6 billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.”
If animals are equal to people, then eating chicken is as bad as genocide, and medical research using animals is as evil as Nazi experiments on people. “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS,” said Newkirk, “we’d be against it.” Another activist said, “If the death of one rat cured all diseases, it wouldn’t make any difference to me.”
Drinking milk and wearing wool are also wrong, in that view, because we humans shouldn’t use animals for our own well-being. Pet ownership is wrong too. It’s as bad as human slavery. If people and animals are equal, one may not be a master over the other. “One day we would like an end to pet shops and the breeding of animals,” says one activist.
All this is based on the idea that all animals are equal to people and should have the same rights. “We’re not superior. There are no clear distinctions between us and animals,” claims Michael Fox of the Humane Society “The life of an ant and the life of my child should be granted equal consideration.”
Philosophy professor Tom Regan was asked which he would save, a dog or a baby, if a boat capsized in the ocean. He replied, “If it were a retarded baby and a bright dog, I’d save the dog.” Princeton ethics professor Peter Singer is the dean of animal-rights thinking. Unlike some, he doesn’t make all animals equal to people, but he does think a happy cat has a greater claim on life than a very unhappy person or a newborn baby that is unwanted by its parents.
Some religions have long taught that all forms of life are one and that all animals are of equal value with humans. Now a growing number of non-religious evolutionists have a similar opinion. But the Bible distinguishes people from animals and says people matter most. Peter Singer knows this and hates it. He declares, “Christianity is our foe. If animal rights is to succeed, we must destroy the Judeo-Christian religious tradition.” Singer insists, “It can no longer be maintained by anyone but a religious fanatic that man is the darling of the whole universe, or that other animals were created to provide us with food, or that we have divine authority over them, and divine permission to mill them.” But that is exactly what the Word of God before us is saying. [op cit. pp. 12&13]
You understand that I hate all kinds of animal cruelty. They are God’s creatures and we should appreciate and preserve the wonderful variety of wildlife and avoid needless damage to their habitats. We dare not inflict useless pain on them. Livestock and pets should be fed well and treated with care. I can give you a verse from the Bible that requires this; Proverbs 12:10, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.” But animals were not created in God’s image and do not have the same God-given rights that humans have. God permits you to be a vegetarian if you wish. It is personal choice; he does not require it. Let us end by looking at that.
iii] The blessing of eating them.
In verses three and four of our text God says, “Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.” If you believe in reincarnation then it would be safer for you to be a vegetarian, you might be eating your late mother! If you are a Hindu you worship the sacred cow, but for the Christian there is no animal, fish, reptile, insect or bird which is prohibited to man. It is all a matter of taste. In the Upper Room the Lord Jesus ate lamb, and by the Sea of Galilee he ate fish. It is your preference to eat or not to eat. We will soon be home and eating a Sunday roast. That is God’s blessing to you. You know the New Testament warning of false teachers who “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:3-5).
You ask me what that last phrase means, “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it” (v.4). I believe it may prohibit the cruelty of cutting a piece out of a living animal and devouring it raw, blood and all. That is Matthew Henry’s view, but another reason for this prohibition may be that during the old covenant the blood of the sacrifice was poured out on the altar as a part of the atonement made for our sin. The perfect sacrifice had given up its life – and you see that in the shedding of its blood – so that we might not die. That shed blood was so sacred that it could not be even hinted at in the mundane diet of Old Testament times. The blood was for pouring out on the altar. The blood spoke of divine atonement. This prohibition says nothing about us being prohibited from eating blood sausages, or that Christian Masai or Christian Mongols are not allowed to mix with milk and swallow the blood of cows and yaks today.
5th November 2006 GEOFF THOMAS