Are you a cat lover? I have a few cats. (Seems like I have always had a cat or two around the house. Maybe I am a cat lover?) Whether you love them or not if you have been around cats at all you know they are peculiar critters. They all have unique personalities but similar character traits and behaviors. As an example, it is rare you find a cat who likes water. Take a cat and try to give it a bath and see what happens. They are funny about strangers. Some they like and some they run from. One thing for sure is if a cat is trying to get away from you chasing it will not work out well for you or the cat. Those furry hair-ball consumers are weird about cleanliness. They appear to be “giving themselves a bath” often but then they roll in the dirt on a sunny day? They will walk right through a mud puddle and leave kitty foot prints all over you counters and dining room table but try to wipe that stuff off…really!?!?
So imagine a big fluffy kitty that falls out of its favorite perch in the back yard right into the fresh poured concrete. Or maybe precious jumps onto the roof that just got a new coat of tar. Or maybe princess darts across the deck you just had painted. Or, heaven forbid, something worse like they get doused with some poisonous concoction by accident. Now you coax little missy into your arms (probably a new white shirt) and take them in to clean them up. What do you suppose is going to happen? Say it is really bad like the poison thing. You know they need a bath to get clean. If they clean themselves they could get sick. If they don’t get the paint off they will have to stay outside until it dries. Tar will take other poisonous potions to get it off and then a bath. You are getting the idea.
When do you stop trying to clean them up? Suppose you have industrial strength rubber gloves and a steel mesh suit for protection. When does getting them clean get them hurt? What if it got really violent? They could be hurt to death. Kitties are not like people. They have tender bones and soft rib cages and sensitive internal organs. At some point you have to assess the benefits versus the risk. If it isn’t life threatening, maybe you just let them stay outside until the paint dries. At some point you need to make a judgment call and maybe let them go. You judge them and their situation and you give them over to their circumstance and hope for the best.
When I talk about the goodness of God I can actually predict about how long before the usual rebuttal. Why people want to argue against a good God is perplexing but it demonstrates how confused we are in our fallen thinking. Religion (the bad kind) actually takes the fear of hell and so distorts our images of God that we will agree to the most ludicrous things. Without getting into all that you can imagine the most popular response to “God is good” is “what about the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah?” OK, that took 5 seconds longer than usual.
The real answer is to ask Jesus. He is the perfect representation of God. He reveals the Father. He says stuff all the time that is counter to our fallen way of thinking like this one:
Matt 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. (ESV)
This is what Moses said:
Ex 20:22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (ESV)
So was God lying or did Moses miss it? Is it possible that what the Israelites needed was this kind of “rules of good behavior” to keep them from killing each other and God allowed it even when it wasn’t His nature? Which one reflects the heart of God? The answer is always Jesus. When He says “if you believe in me you will have eternal life” this is what He is saying: “you need to believe in the God I am revealing to see the true nature of your Father in heaven. His nature is not found anywhere else. His nature is to save.” Oh yeah, Jesus became sin when He never sinned because it wasn’t His nature to sin. Something to think about: maybe God has been doing what He did on the cross from the beginning, appearing to be something He isn’t for our benefit.
So what does this have to do with cats and baths? I believe that the tragedy of the flood and Sodom are God letting the cat go. He has passed “judgment” and determined that they just won’t let Him help them. This is why Noah is saved. He is a cat that sees the Grace in God’s eyes. He trusts God to help him. That is what saves him. Likewise Lot looked to God and found his rescue. The others would not. Even his wife turns back to her identity in the city instead of looking into the loving eyes of God for her salvation.
Can you hear the annoying skip skip of the broken record of our entire history as fallen humans? We run from God instead of letting Him catch us. We kick and scratch instead of letting Him take care of us. We hiss and bite instead of looking into His loving eyes for comfort. At some point our fighting is our judgment.
Know this however, God does not let go easily. He is tormented in grief when He lets us go. Check out these verses:
Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (ESV)
The word for “wept” is: 2799 klaíō – properly, weep aloud, expressing uncontainable, audible grief. See it…uncontainable grief. Some translations say He wept bitterly.
The Nation of Israel had been so violent and rebellious the Romans had enough. The Jews had created such and exclusive religious society that they had rejected everyone who might help. They lived in hate and prayed for a messiah that would utterly destroy their enemies. Jesus told them to love their enemies. It was so bad that Jesus said this:
John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (ESV)
Israel was the cat. Jesus came to save them. They rejected God for religion. He “let them go” and the Romans did the rest in 70 AD.
You need to ask God yourself about the flood and Sodom. Only His revelation through Jesus is going to work for you. God is so good He wants you to ask the hard questions. For me I feel the flood was a “return to the chaos” event. In the beginning the world was covered with water and God forced the water to go where it should be and the land to appear. When God “let the cat go” the water returned. He breathed on the waters and put stuff back into order when it was all over. For Sodom there was a disaster on the horizon. Meteor or earthquake or volcano or the devil or whatever… took the cities. God could have saved them like He did with Lot but in His infinite wisdom; His judgment was to “let them go.” In both cases the world they lived in was hell on Earth. No turn to God, no turn to Grace, no turn to Mercy but instead violence, hate, injustice, turmoil, pain, agony… Like a cat they could have submitted to His love and mercy and grace but instead they had scratched and clawed and God had to let them go. They were harming themselves and each other.
The details are for you and God to work out. The point is Jesus is the exact image and very essence of God. The story tellers of old were inspired for accuracy but their perspectives were trapped in a fallen nature. We need Jesus to see the truth because He is the truth. God doesn’t destroy stuff. That is the devil’s program. He fixes and restores. His greatest display of power towards us is Jesus on the cross. When we refuse to let Him restore us and help us and deliver us we are the cat and a bath. When He let’s go we fall into the chaos and destruction the devil has planned for us. We get a return on a poor investment. We lick the poison off ourselves and we die when we could have let Him do what He has always wanted to do…save us.