The Ebola virus is spreading throughout the world, recently killing a top doctor. Financial turmoil has seized Argentina. A Malaysian plane was shot down over Ukraine, and fierce fighting has broken out around the wreckage. The death toll rises in Gaza as deadly violence occurs every day. Israel attacks a UN school killing 20 evacuees. Mobs of Islamic militants kill dozens in China. An unprecedented crisis at our own border continues. Immigrant families are being torn apart. Kidnapped Nigerian girls for whom churches all over the world prayed are still missing. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright summed up the state of the world last week in one simple sentence: “To put it mildly, the world is a mess.”
I am not the only preacher to point out that the state of the world today is reminiscent of a story found in the early chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 6 we read: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” In other words, the state of the world caused God great suffering. Other translations read that the state of the world “broke God’s heart.”
We know the rest of the story. The Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created” and in Genesis 7, we read that for forty days and nights the rains fell as God intended to start the whole thing over with Noah and his family. However, just one chapter later, the futility of God’s intentions became obvious, as the state of the world had not changed. After the flood “…the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.’” In the following chapter, we read where the rainbow is forever a beautiful reminder of this great promise.
Sadly, I believe we tend to forget what this promise truly means. Perhaps it is due to a selfish inclination that we have had since our youth that we only remember God will never again try to “blot us out.” However, this promise means so much more. This promise means that our God has chosen a path of suffering. The rainbow means that the state of our world continually breaks the very heart of our God.
There is a reason the prophet Isaiah moves us when we read about “a man of suffering, acquainted with infirmity, wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53). There is a reason Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things…”(Mark 8) There is a reason at the death of Lazarus we read, “Jesus wept” (John 11). There is a reason Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt 27). There is a reason the soldier who was standing at the foot of the cross of our crucified Lord exclaimed: “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Matt 27).
Furthermore, there is a good reason that, living in a world which, “putting it mildly, is a great mess,” we sing: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”