As we reflect on this text, I want us to explore the meaning of purpose on two levels. First, we will address the grand purpose of God in creation. Second, we will discuss the need for human beings to discover their purpose in the midst of a broken, fallen world. Let’s start with God’s purpose in creation.
God’s Purpose – Obviously, we don’t know everything about God’s original purpose in creation. We don’t have access to His mind to fully grasp all He intended when He chose to speak the universe into existence. And – the Bible is not a philosophical treatise divided into categorical discussions. In this section of the Scripture, what we have is a narrative that simply tells a story. Now, it is a grand story for sure! However, it is a story. As Christians, we believe it is the story of the beginnings of creation and the human story. As such, it merits our close examination as we search for truth and an explanation of reality.
So – what do we learn about God’s purpose from this story? First, creation is a reflection of God’s intentions. Nothing that we know of actually existed until God took the initiative to bring it all into being. In other words, creation is an expression of God’s will. We also know this because of the repetitive refrain in the creation account, “And God saw that it was good.” Obviously, God was pleased with His work and creation represented His intentions.
We have to both explore this narrative as well as other sections of the Bible to discover the purposes of God in creation. For example, we read in the Psalms that God desired for His glory to be on display through what He made. Psalm 19:1 reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” We also read in Psalm 8:1, “You have set your glory in the heavens.”
God also desired to express His righteousness through His creation. We read in Psalm 50:6, “The heavens proclaim his righteousness.” The God of the Bible is a God of justice and righteousness. His creation reflects that part of His character.
God’s consistency in character is also on display in His creation. There is order to the universe. There are ecosystems and natural laws that undergird the certainty and reliability of God’s creation. Oxygen is produced and consumed. Water is generated and consumed. Seasons pass consistently. Seeds produce harvests. You get the idea.
All of this to say – one of God’s purposes in creation is to reveal His nature, character and personhood. He is on display throughout all He created. His self-expression reveals the artistry and ability of His creative genius. His glory is reflected in all of His work.
In Genesis 1 and 2, we also read that He created the human race as special creatures in all of creation. The rest of the Bible bears this out. We read in Psalm 8 that God chose to crown human beings with His glory and anoint them as co-rulers with Him over all He had created (Psalm 8:4-8). Of course, this is what we read in Genesis 1-2. In Genesis 1:26 we discover that God ascribes humans the highest honor by placing His image and His likeness within them. Further, Genesis 1-2 reveals God’s desire to live in fellowship with humans and they are to work alongside Him in tending to creation (Genesis 1:28; 2:15).
Human beings were originally designed as God’s innocent co-regents of His creation. They had the gift of God’s image and the ability to reflect His glory as no other creatures could ever approach. They could walk with God, converse with God and carry out His desires for the universe. The rest of creation as subject to them and they were in charge of tending to the handiwork of God. They were to live in fellowship, relationship and harmony with each other, creation and God Himself. It was a beautiful beginning with unlimited potential for glory and joy.
As the story unfolds on the following pages of Scripture, the introduction of sin into God’s creation changes the complexion of it all. God responds to the sinful choices of humanity with judgment. The Curse is announced in Genesis 3 and the rest of history plays out in its shadow. On the one hand, Genesis 3 was probably not originally written to provide a holistic explanation of evil and suffering – but it has become the narrative that has guided theologians for centuries in explaining why it all went so wrong. The Apostle Paul spent much time on this page of Scripture as he developed his theology of redemption (see Romans 5).
After the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, God’s plans and purposes were focused on the redemption of humanity in particular and the restoration of creation in general. His grand purpose of rescue begins to take shape when He calls Abram in Genesis 12 to become the bearer of God’s promise of salvation and hope. Obviously, Jesus Christ will be the culmination of that hope and it is in Him that we all now find redemption and life.
Individual Purpose – Long before Rick Warren wrote The Purpose-Driven Life, people were searching for purpose and meaning. I have traveled the world and have found a common human impulse that transcends cultural, geographical, political and ethnic boundaries. There is a desire that is common to the human race to discover meaning and purpose in life. We sometimes joke about the question, “What is the meaning of life?” But – it is the fundamental human question.
Interestingly, it should be noted how profound it is that this question is even posed in the first place. It simply expresses the truth that the Bible teaches about humanity. Human beings are different than the rest of creation. Human beings want to know why they exist. Human beings want to be in touch with a deeper purpose for their lives.
With that said, let’s focus in on Noah and how he discovered God’s purpose for his life. Here are some clues that I think can help us as we seek to do the same.
Acknowledge the brokenness of our world – Discovering God’s purpose for our lives is more art than science. We live in a broken, fallen world. Genesis 6 is a reminder of just how bad it can get. Human beings routinely step out of their intended place and seek to be “like God” and even angels have stepped out of their place and sought to be “like humans.” This world is broken and fallen. Our ability to bear the image of God is marred and our ability to reflect God’s glory is diminished by our own sin.
So – we begin our quest for God’s purpose for our lives by acknowledging our need for Him in the first place. We cannot become who we need to be without His intervention in our lives! We need to be redeemed from our own brokenness.
Relationship with God – Noah’s spiritual life is described in relational terms in the book of Genesis. He was “righteous” – that word referred to his relationship with people. He was “blameless” – that word referred to his relationship with God. And – he “walked faithfully” with God (Genesis 6:9).
If we are going to discover purpose, it will happen in the context of a relationship with God. God has designed us for this relationship. He longs to walk with us. He went looking for Adam. He went looking for Abel. He pursued Noah. He wants us to live with Him in relationship.
Obedience – I am convinced one crucial key to discovering God’s purpose for our lives is that we obey Him completely. When God led Noah to build the ark, Noah complied. He didn’t argue. He didn’t turn away. He didn’t offer suggestions. He obeyed. Obedience is to be our response to God’s direction in our lives.
Jesus challenged us to take His message to the nations of the world. In the Great Commission, He challenges us to teach people to “obey” all that He commands (Matthew 18:18-20).
Noah is a study in obedience. His compliant spirit is admirable. He is commended in Hebrews 11 for his willingness to have faith in what was not yet seen (11:7). Jesus commended that kind of faith when He told Thomas after His resurrection, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
Seek God’s Perspective – Noah recognized he was living in the midst of a story that was bigger than his. He seemed to just know that God was at work and he was to play a role in it somehow. God’s perspective is what we need to discover His purpose. Through prayer, devotion, obedience and sound counsel – we can seek God’s perspective for our lives today. Instead of living like our lives are on center stage and we are giving directions for the cosmic drama ourselves, perhaps we can take the time to seek God’s view and see where we best fit in His story!