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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:God highly values human life and therefore we should too
Text:Genesis 9:1-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 82:1-2

Hymn 82:3 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 8:1-3

Psalm 8:4-5

Psalm 145:1-2

Scripture readings: Matthew 5:21-26, James 3

Text: Genesis 9:1-7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

In history human life has often been regarded as cheap.  Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle taught that certain babies didn’t deserve to live.  If you gave birth to a baby with a birth defect, the baby should be brought to the dump, thrown down a well, or thrown into a river.  The first known book on gynecology was published by a Greek author, Soranus of Ephesus.  In his book, he included a section, “How to Recognize the Newborn Worth Rearing.”  Those not worth rearing should be disposed of like garbage, he said.

In ancient Rome, slavery was a reality.  Slaves weren’t considered as human beings.  So citizens could do whatever they pleased with their slaves, including rape and murder.  The life of a slave wasn’t worth much.  Of course, this way of thinking resurfaced with the Atlantic Slave Trade and with the colonization of places like Australia and Canada. 

Then there were the genocides of the 20th century.  Hitler and Nazi Germany were responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews plus many millions of others.  Josef Stalin murdered at least 7 million of his own countrymen.  Chairman Mao in China killed at least 45 million with his “Great Leap Forward.”  The list goes on.  As we think about our present day, we also think of the abortion holocaust which continues here and in so many places around the world.  So many needless deaths.  All because people haven’t properly valued human life. 

From the moment he created Adam and Eve, God put on their lives the highest value.  He values all human life and he wants us to do the same.  This is the main thrust of the sermon this morning from Genesis 9:1-7.  As we listen to God speaking to Noah and his sons, we’ll hear how he highly values human life and therefore we should too.

We’ll consider:

  1. How God values human life
  2. How we reflect him in valuing human life

With Genesis 9, we’re with Noah and his family as they’ve just left the ark.  In the previous passage, Noah offered sacrifices of atonement to God.  God responded with beautiful promises.  He would never again curse the ground and he would uphold the cycles of nature.  That was all at the end of chapter 8.

God continues to respond to Noah here at the beginning of chapter 9, except now he actually speaks directly to him and to his sons as well.  Look with me at verse 1.  Notice how God is said to speak a blessing to Noah and his sons.  Interestingly, the blessing comes in the form of a command, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”  It’s the same as in Genesis 1:28.  There too the creation mandate is said to be a blessing from God, but it comes in the form of a command.  There is something for people to do, but it’s something for which we normally have a natural impulse.  But that natural impulse doesn’t always lead to children.  There can be struggles with infertility in this broken world – the Bible has stories of women like Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth.  The blessing here in Genesis 9 doesn’t mean no one will ever struggle with infertility.  What it does mean is that God is going to ensure human life proliferates.  It’s as if he’s saying, “I promise, you humans will be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  There will be abundant life on the planet and it will be a good thing.”  God loves life and the more life the better.

That’s why the words “be fruitful and multiply” come back again in verse 7.  Those words actually frame everything else in this passage.  It’s as if God is putting an exclamation mark behind his love for life and his will to see it flourish again all over the earth.   

Loved ones, that does inform the way we understand having children as Christian parents.  “Be fruitful and multiply” was God’s blessing – it’s a blessing for Christians to have children.  “Children are a heritage from the LORD,” said Solomon in Psalm 127.  Based on what Scripture says here, no one should ever think that the world needs less human life.  God says more human life is good.  He wants to see that.  Now I’m not going to say anything about the right size for a Christian family.  In my first congregation, I was a co-pastor.  My fellow pastor was a man much older and wiser than me.  He was fond of saying, “It’s not about maximum or minimum, but about optimum.”  The optimum is something every Christian couple has to work out for themselves using wisdom informed by God’s Word.  But our starting point should always be how Scripture speaks of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth as a blessing.  It’s a good thing.

In verse 2, God again shows how he values human life.  This time it’s by assuring Noah and his sons that the animals won’t be able to dominate human beings.  Human beings will always be the apex predator.  As a rule, the animals will be afraid of us.  There’s a natural fear of human beings that exists in the animal world.  Some predators rarely encounter human beings so they don’t necessarily possess that fear.  But most animals, including most predators, most animals do fear us and our power over them.  And some animals can be domesticated as well and the fear of human beings can be overcome.  But God put this natural fear into the animal world because of his love for human life.  He wants us to flourish on the earth. 

God shows his concern for life also with respect to food.  Verse 3 raises a question in that regard.  God says there that he now gives the animals for food, just like before he gave green plants to human beings for food.  So does this mean that before the Flood human beings never ate meat?  Some have said that.  Here are the facts as we have them in Scripture:  In Genesis 1:29, God said he gave the plants and trees with their fruit to human beings for food.  After this, aside from Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden, we don’t hear anything else about people eating anything in particular.  Those are the things we know for sure.  It’s possible God intended for human beings to not eat meat prior to the Flood.  It’s possible many people didn’t listen to God’s intention.  The days before the Flood were filled with rebellion against God, so why would this be any different?  Whatever the case may be, we do know for sure that God now allows human beings to eat meat.  Meat can be food to sustain life.

But God does make one rule at this point with respect to eating meat.  He forbids eating meat that doesn’t have the blood drained from it.  When Noah and his sons would kill an animal for food, God wanted them to make sure it was properly bled.  In the ancient world, it often happened that people would eat and drink blood because they believed that by doing so they would be taking in the life of the animal.  By doing that you would be receiving power from the animal.  If you kill a bear and ingest the bear’s blood, you’d then get the strength of the bear.  It’s easy to see how this belief would develop – if you kill an animal and it bleeds, it loses its life.  But God didn’t want his people to follow these superstitious pagan ideas, so he made this requirement here and then later it was repeated in the dietary laws in Leviticus.

Now I know the question many of you will be asking:  what about us today?  Does this passage mean we’re not allowed to have anything other than a well-done steak?  What about black pudding, you know the sausage made with pig’s blood?  First, when it comes to your steak, the red stuff you see isn’t blood.  It’s a protein called myoglobin.  When beef cattle are slaughtered, they’re always bled immediately afterwards.  There’s no blood in that meat.  So whatever other view you might take, you can go ahead and enjoy a rare or medium-rare steak.  It’s not in view here.

But what about the black pudding?  Here people will sometimes bring in what it says in the New Testament in Acts 15.  There was a debate in the church about the Gentiles and what could be required of them.  Some Jews felt that the Gentiles should adhere to all the Old Testament dietary laws and so on.  But the apostles decided that the Christians in the early church should only be asked to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, and from what was strangled.  The reason they made this ruling was because there were so many Jews in the church and it was a matter of the Gentiles not causing them unnecessary offense.  Today we’re in a much different situation, so the rule found in Acts 15 doesn’t apply anymore.  It was meant for a particular moment in the church’s history, not as a binding requirement.  So if you want to eat black pudding, go right ahead.  You have the freedom to do so.  In Mark 7:19, Jesus declared all foods to be clean.  We’re no longer bound to the Old Testament dietary laws.

We are bound to value human life just as God does.  That’s the point in verses 5 and 6.  Human beings are unique amongst all God’s creatures.  Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creation – his finest and most beautiful work.  As Psalm 139 says, we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made.  But not only that, we’re also created in God’s image.  That really comes to the fore as the reason behind what verses 5 and 6 say about the evil of murder.

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?  To put it simply, it means that we reflect him.  We don’t reflect him in every way, but who we are as human beings does reflect who God is in some important ways.  Ephesians 4:24 mentions one aspect of the image of God – the moral aspect.  Paul says the new self in Christ is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  That narrow aspect of the image of God was lost after the fall into sin.  It’s restored through regeneration and conversion.  But there’s more to the image of God.  James 3:9 says we use our tongues to curse people “who are made in the likeness of God.”  While it’s still impacted by sin, all people retain the image of God in a broad sense.  How can we see this?  God communicates – people communicate.  God has relationships – people have relationships.  God appreciates beauty – people appreciate beauty.  God rules over creatures – people rule over creatures.  In all these ways, people still show they’ve been created in God’s image, that they still bear his image, even though it’s been vandalized and ruined by sin. 

That’s why God speaks the way he does here in Genesis 9.  Human beings bear his image and it’s because we’re image-bearers that we have life worthy of dignity and respect.  It’s because we’re image-bearers that taking a human life is such a serious matter.  Murdering another human being is killing someone who bears the image of the Creator.  It’s like an attack on God. 

As a result, God says he will require a reckoning from everyone who murders.  There will be justice – a life for a life.  He says those famous words in verse 6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.”  Now you should note here that God doesn’t say how this would be done.  But as Scripture unfolds from here, it’s eventually something that’s seen as the responsibility of the government.  That’s why Romans 13:4 speaks about the ruling authority bearing the sword.  The government has the power and responsibility to carry out justice not only when it comes to murder, but to all societal evils. 

So is this passage teaching that capital punishment is the appropriate penalty for murder?  Yes, but we have to understand two important things.  The first is what I just mentioned.  It’s not up to us individually to put murderers to death.  That’s the government’s task.  When they do it, they’re not murdering.  Murder is unlawful killing.  According to the Bible, capital punishment is lawful killing.  God approves of it as a penalty for murder.  The second thing to understand is an important principle found in Numbers 35.  There God said that no one was to be put to death for murder on the testimony of only one witness.  There had to be at least two eyewitnesses.  Since human life is so valuable, you don’t want to get capital punishment wrong.  This principle of at least two witnesses doesn’t eliminate the possibility of mistakes, but it does go a long way to prevent them. 

Capital punishment for murder doesn’t seem likely to be reinstated in our country any time soon.  But what is just and right according to God’s Word doesn’t change.  Our responsibility as Christian citizens is to promote what is just and right, regardless of what everyone else may think.  We shouldn’t be afraid to say that the right punishment for murder is the death penalty – and this is exactly because we value human life the way God does.

Because we value human life, we also recognize that what the Bible teaches about murder goes deeper than literally spilling blood and taking lives.   God’s people in the days of Jesus thought it was enough if they didn’t actually kill another person.  But in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught how this was a short-sighted way of viewing the law.  He said if you have sinful anger towards someone, you’re under God’s judgment.  If you insult someone and call them names, the same thing.  You deserve punishment from God.   The brother of Jesus tells us why this is such a serious matter.  James says it’s because human beings are created in the image of God.  If you’re having sinful anger towards another human being, you’re doing that towards one of God’s image-bearers, someone he created in his image.  If you’re insulting someone, you’re doing that to an image-bearer.  You might think it’s a light matter, but Christ says something different.  He says you deserve punishment if you do it – what he means is that you deserve the death penalty, an eternal death penalty. 

Have you ever had sinful anger towards a fellow image-bearer?  Maybe it was your husband or wife or one of your kids.  Maybe it was your parents.  Many of us have done it, myself included.  It’s wrong, it’s sinful.  It shows an undervaluing of other human beings created in the image of God.  Such sinful anger is at the root of murder; it’s where murder starts. 

Have you ever called people names, insulted them?  Maybe it was a stranger you thought you’d never see again or maybe it was a brother or sister in Christ, or maybe someone in your family.  Maybe you used a racial slur.  Have you ever said anything rude and insulting?  I’d be surprised if there are any of us who haven’t.  Listen to what our Lord Jesus says, “You will be liable to the hell of fire.”  You deserve hell for treating another image-bearer like that.  It’s wicked and evil.  You’re not valuing human life by calling people names and insulting them. 

You see, we might bemoan the fact that our government doesn’t uphold justice by using capital punishment to address murder.  We might say, “They don’t value human life properly.”  But what about us?  What about that log in our own eyes?  Are you valuing human life when you ignore Jesus and have sinful anger and call people names?

Loved ones, for all our failures to value human life the way God does, let’s sincerely repent.  Just going with what Christ says in Matthew 5, let’s turn away from our sinful anger and hate it.  Let’s have heartfelt sorrow over the ways we’ve insulted other people and attacked the image of God.  In doing these things, we’re wicked and sinful and deserving of God’s wrath. 

But when we repent and turn to Christ in faith, we will find two things.  As we rest and trust in Jesus Christ, we’ll first of all find forgiveness at the cross.  Through his death and through his lifeblood shed for us, we have the payment we need for all our undervaluing of human life.  God will look upon Christ’s death in our place and he will be satisfied with that.  If you look to Christ and trust in him alone, you’ll be forgiven.  And the second thing we’ll find in Christ is a perfect measure of righteousness as a free gift.  Jesus always valued human life – he valued our lives so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own.  He always had perfect love and a perfect esteem for God’s image-bearers.  All of his obedience to God’s law is passed on to us, it’s credited to our accounts with God.  When God looks at believers, he sees those who are just like Jesus – valuing human life exactly the way that he does.  We have perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ.  The gospel promises us that.

The gospel then leads us on to a life of wanting to be who we are in Christ.  We aim to conform our lives to his.  We aim to have God’s values as our values.  When God values human life so highly, we’re going to do the same.  It starts by praying for the help of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.  We need him to instill God’s values, Christ’s values in our hearts.  We pray to him for that and ask him to give us these things. We ask him to help us in our hearts so that we resist the temptation to have sinful anger towards others, to insult others.  But we also ask him to give us the help we need to defend and promote life in this sinful world.  For example, as Christians we say we’re against abortion.  But what are we doing positively to address this evil?  There’s so much more we could be doing on this front.  Let’s do all we can to really show we value life the way God does.

In history, Christians have often been known for regarding all human life as valuable when everyone else around them thought it was cheap.  It was Christians who rescued babies from the dump in the ancient world.  It was Christians who spearheaded the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.  It was Christians who hid Jews from the Nazis trying to kill them.  Around the world, Christians have been at the forefront of the pro-life movement, not only doing advocacy, but also running crisis pregnancy centers that provide concrete help to women.  Why have Christians done all these things and why should we do them too?  Exactly because our God highly values human life.  Because we love him, we want to be like him.  AMEN. 


O God of life,

Thank you for the way you highly value the human race.  You put things in place in order to help us flourish and live for your glory.  You give us the blessing of children – and we thank you for that next generation we see and hear in our midst.  You bless us with protection from animals that could easily kill us.  You bless us with food, both plants and animals.  Thank you for all these ways that you show how much you value humanity.  Please forgive us for all the times when we haven’t valued human life like we should.  Please forgive our sinful anger, our insulting words, our lack of love and compassion towards others.  Please wash away all that sin with the blood of Christ shed for us on Calvary.  Father, we pray that you would teach us with your Holy Spirit to value life like you do.  Help us to reflect Christ our Saviour in our lives, help us to reflect you.  We pray particularly about all the unborn who lose their lives to abortion in our country and elsewhere.  We pray for an end to this wicked injustice.  But we also pray that you would help us to care more.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to get more involved in helping women with crisis pregnancies.  Father, please help us to make a difference with our lives in this world of death.  Help us to love life.                                                                            

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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