God Questions His Creation: Genesis 9:3-4 (a)

See:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 9:1-2

Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

The world after the flood is not a return to Paradise, nor even a renewal of the world immediately after the Fall.  No longer are humans to be vegans, for God now puts into their hands the lives of every animal to be used as food.  Humans have a new relationship with all other animals, not a renewed one.  The Flood story in the P-Source (see Source Theory) did distinguish between clean and unclean animals; no such distinction is made at this point in the text.  The ideas of kashrut (kosher) are not here established by God.   However, God does place a serious limit on human blood lust.  The permission to eat meat comes with a very controlling law.  Humans are not to eat meat with its blood in it.  Humans are not to eat raw meat, nor eat an animal while it is still alive.  Unlike carnivorous wild beasts which tear flesh and limbs from their victims, humans must prepare their meat and show all due respect to the blood.   The life of an animal is in its blood.   The direct connection of each animal to the spiritual world is in its blood.  Once again dualism is rejected.  The physical blood is life – it is the very point of connection with the non-physical (spiritual) world.  The text clearly shows that the physical world is sacred; the physical blood is life not mere cells, but is life.  The distinction between the physical and the spiritual is intentionally blurred by God.

God’s very first command to the people of the new world cleansed of sin deals with food just as it did in the original creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2.  His first prohibition endeavors to get humans to respect life.    We may eat meat, but the permission to do so is connected to a command to respect life.  Wasteful slaughtering of animals is not blessed.  Humans are to show appropriate recognition and respect for life, even animal life.  The idea of the sanctity of life was never mentioned in Paradise, though probably assumed as all in Paradise was holy; only now when the killing of animals is permitted does God pointedly reveal the truth of the sacredness of all life.

Eating animal flesh while approved by God belongs only to the world after the flood.  It did not belong to Paradise nor to the world before the flood; Biblically speaking, it is not completely natural to us.  Eating meat is not an eternal value but belongs to the world which is passing away. Many find it a delicious pleasure to eat a good steak, yet eating meat is not an ultimate good but one approved originally for this fallen world only.   It is a pleasure of the fallen world.  Fast periods acknowledge that meat eating belongs to this world, and really will not and cannot commend us to God or bring about our salvation.  There is nothing wrong with eating meat, but in fasting we deny that flesh eating is of eternal value and we admit it belongs only to this fallen world – and we do not live for this world alone.  Man does not live by bread alone (Luke 4:4) and neither does he live by and for the eating of meat!   Our roots and our true home are in paradise and our goal is God’s heaven.  We acknowledge in fasting that we belong to another world, a world beyond this fallen, carnivorous world; the ultimate values and good in the world-to-come do matter in this world.   Fasting challenges our love for flesh eating – our “blood thirstiness” and says these carnivorous pleasures belong to this world.  We can enjoy eating meat with thanksgiving, but we also must realize that this is part of our appetite in and for the fallen world.  Despite our Paschal feasts with their lambs and hams, the foretaste of the Kingdom is the bloodless sacrifice we receive in the Holy Eucharist.   Denying ourselves in the present world is a good that can lead to life in the world to come.

“…as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”      In Genesis 2:16-17, God gave permission to the humans to freely eat of any of the trees of the Garden of Eden – with the firm exception of one tree.  In doing this God imposed on the humans the one and only rule of Paradise.  This one law we understand to be spiritually promoting self-control, self-denial, abstinence or fasting.   God saw that it was good for humans to have access to the abundance of the fruits of the earth, to enjoy the abundance, but also for the humans to learn a limit, to learn that discipline is an important aspect of being “not God”, of being human.   Now in Genesis 9:3-4, God is vastly expanding the food supply for humans.  No longer are humans limited to eating the earth’s harvest of fruits and vegetables, now every animal is added to the food supply.  The end result of being expelled from Paradise because of our sin, of having the world being overwhelmed with destructive sinfulness, is that God increases the food supply!  Humans are now far less “deprived” than ever, at least when it comes to edible resources.  The world is no longer paradise, but God opens up to humans an entirely new food source in which many humans will delight and for which many will crave to enjoy.  However, while increasing the palatable pleasures for people, God once again in the midst of abundance imposes a rule of self-control and abstinence.   We can eat meat to our heart’s content, but we are not to eat it with its blood still in it.   Certainly in the over sated and over fed modern existence, this should give us pause.  What does God know that we don’t understand?  Why does God offer abundance and then tell us to practice self control?   Medical doctor Peter Whybrow in his book, AMERICAN MANIA: WHEN MORE IS NOT ENOUGH, offers a health warning to Americans: “In times of material affluence, when desire is no longer constrained by limited resources, the evidence from our contemporary American experiment suggests that we humans have trouble setting limits to our instinctual craving…. there is considerable evidence suggesting that unchecked consumption fosters our social malaise, eroding our self-constraint and pulling the cultural pendulum toward excessive indulgence and greed”  (pp 7-8).   In other words, abundance does not seem to satisfy, it seems to increase the craving for more.   We seem to need some external reminder that enough is enough and too much is too much.  No wonder America is dotted with so many fast food places and diet and weight loss clinics.  Certainly the recent economic collapse and crisis was fostered by the greed, “more is not enough.”   People craved ever greater profits and wealth and were willing to set aside all human caution and wisdom to pursue wealth and profit no matter what the risk and how unsustainable  the effort.  And recent signs are that many are impatient with the current economic situation and eager to be able to try to climb that slippery but steep slope of greed.  As one person said to me totally straight-faced, “we are not being greedy, we are just trying to make as much money as we possibly can.”

Next:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 9:3-4 (b)

Stewards of God’s Spiritual Gifts

God bestows on the members of His Church gifts of the Holy Spirit for us to use for the building up of the Church and for ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) This is the problem of the Israelites who found that the bread from heaven could not be preserved from day to day. Each day they had to present empty and open hands to receive that day’s gift. And of course this need for constant renewal applies to all the gifts we have, really all gifts of the Spirit when understood deeply, for the preacher or teacher or counselor or artist or writer, may find himself repeating what he has said or drawn or written before and doing so with ever decreasing sense of purpose and élan. Holiness is a flickering flame which passes through and illumines each of us. It is not our possession. The Creative work of God is a great river of light flowing down from Eternity, from the Eden above and to and through us…Always through. That is so important, isn’t it? We cannot dam it up and try to make ourselves a little personal supply. Still less can we think to bottle it and sell it. It is passing through us for the sake of others as through them for our sake and it is only as we let go and give to others that again there is a space for God to enter as He wishes, again and always. How wonderful when we enter the flow of the spirit!

                The river of God sets my feet to dancing

                the river of God makes my heart sing…

(Bishop Seraphim Sigrist, Theology of Wonder, pg 61-62)