Category Archives: Depravity

Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:5–6 ESV)

Just six chapters prior to this section, we see Adam and Eve enjoying a peaceful existence in the perfect paradise of the garden of Eden.  They walked in the presence of the Almighty and enjoyed His favor and provision; life was not fraught with hardship, difficulty and discord.  Life functioned harmoniously and in rhythm, like that of a spectacular symphony.  But that is no more.  The consequences of sin are catastrophic:  death (Genesis 2:17), difficulty in child-rearing (Genesis 3:16), distorted roles in marriages (Genesis 3:16), creation opposing man’s efforts to cultivate it (Genesis 3:17-20) and the creation itself is broken (Romans 8:20).  So in Genesis 6:5-6, we find ourselves a far cry from the “very good” of Genesis 1:31.

There is no more comprehensive assessment of the total depravity of mankind than what we see here in verse 5.  The verse tells us not that man’s behavior or periodic inclinations were evil, but that their evil was so deep seated that it saturated every intention of the thoughts of his heart.  The heart’s motivations and drives are evil continually, that is in opposition to God and His glory.  Natural logic would lead us to think that the difficult circumstances outside of the garden would have led man to repentance – to throw himself on the mercy of God.  This is not the case, sin becomes more perverse and more depraved and without God’s grace-filled intervention, this is the pattern of the human existence.  And in case you think that things have gotten better, Paul reminds us that ““None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”” (Romans 3:10–12 ESV).  What is painted for us here is the picture of the fallen soul – and it is not a pretty one!

God’s response to the total depravity of those who were created in His image is interesting, “and the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  Contrary to God being a distant and disconnected deity that created all things and then just lets them play out, we see a God who is greatly invested in His creation – so invested that it grieved Him.  God’s grief is connected to his loving care for His image bearers.  Matthew Henry’s comments help us here:  “He did not see it as an unconcerned spectator, but as one injured and affronted by it; he saw it as a tender father sees the folly and stubbornness of a rebellious and disobedient child, which not only angers him, but grieves him, and makes him wish he had been written childless.”1.  The more jarring question here is the fact that the text tells us that God “was sorry that he had made man on the earth.”  This is interesting, is God not soveriegn in His rule and reign?  Did He not know that this would be the outcome?  Is God shocked by the way things are playing out?  Of course not!  God’s immutable (unchangeable), sovereign rule and reign is one of the central themes of the bible.  Malachi 3:6 tells us “For I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6 ESV).  Additionally, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” (1 Samuel 15:29 NIV).  So what is going on here?  Why does it say that God was sorry (or repented in some translations)?  Moses is using what is known as an anthropomorphism which is the use of human terms in an attempt to describe God.  This is limited and falls short, but that is how we should view this section of scripture as Moses attempts to describe how God views humanity.  It is important to understand the Hebrew word, “nacham”, that is translated “sorry.”  The primitive root of this word means to sigh or breath strongly; to express remorse.  So the picture that the text is conveying is one of a Holy sigh over the total depravity of his image bearer’s hearts.  It is the physical manifestation of the sorrow and pain that is within, like when one receives bad news and all that can be mustered is a deep sigh that is marked with guttural tones.  God feels pain, remorse and hurts over the wickedness of His creation – and a heartfelt sigh is what is the result.

It amazes me that God did not destroy the entire human race at this point, I would have.  But God was (and still is) willing to experience profound grief at our wicked hearts that rebel against Him and He still provides us with a way to be reconciled with Him.  He not only provides the way, but also provides us with the faith to believe (Ephesians 2:8-9).  If this does not move you to be absolutely grateful then you don’t understand the meaning of the text!

Men need Majesty

Yesterday, I briefly posted a quote from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion which said “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”  Calvin wrote this after reflecting upon the godly men in scriptures:  “Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.”  Let us look at a few passages that show the response of men when they are duly confronted with the presence of the Almighty:

  • Isaiah was likely the most holy man of his day, and he was reduced to speechlessness when he was in the presence of the Lord:  ““Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV).
  • Job “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV).  He was convinced that if he could gain an audience with God he would be able to “argue with him, and [I] would be acquitted forever by my judge.” (Job 23:7 ESV).  God ultimately answers Job’s plea in chapter 38 as He begins to unfold for Job (and us) his might, sovereignty and infinite-ness for the next 5 chapters.  Job attempts to stop God in chapter 40 by saying, ““behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further”” (Job 40:4–5 ESV), but God continues unpacking His sovereign infinite-ness.  Once Job had experienced being the presence of God, he rightly reckons himself to be finite, limited in perspective and insignificant:  “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”” (Job 42:5–6 ESV).
  • Even the Israelites, who had experienced first hand the miraculous delivery at the hand of God from Egyptian slavery, were fearful of being in the presence of God. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”” (Exodus 20:18–19 ESV)

It is unfortunate that much of what we are taught and consume in the modern evangelical church is man centered and attempts to build us up; it is Christianized self esteem.  This is not the historical understanding that holy men from the past had, nor is it the picture that we see in the scriptures.  What we need most is to be racked with the infinite might and majesty of the eternal, sovereign Creator so as to be put in our place.  He is sovereign, infinite and eternal, we are limited, finite and tiny.  When we are confronted with the majesty of God, we are rendered speechless and understand our right position in the universe.  And when we understand that the universe and scriptures are not about us, but God, there is great joy and freedom.  And ultimately profound worship emerges as we marinate on the fact that the eternal, mighty, holy God would be mindful of us, insignificant worms.  Instead of digesting a steady stream of how to texts (be a better husband, be a better father, break free from pornography, etc), try spending time mining out the majesty of God and many of your struggles will begin to loose influence in your life.

Whose righteousness do you trust in – His or yours?

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:9–14 ESV)

When we are proud of our moral cleanness, disciplined efforts and good works, we show that we are at odds with the Gospel.  Those who are proud of their ability to manage their behavior treat others with contempt.  The Gospel beckons those who recognize their complete inadequacy and long to lean upon Another.  As Christians, we should view ourselves as nothing more than beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.