3 Ways God Preserves the Human Race
The ongoing effects of the Fall are devastating. But when people curse and deny God they are lashing out at the One who sustains them, preserves them, and stays His wrath against them.
There are a few verses that show our need for Christ more than Genesis 6:5, “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.” We know where the story goes from here, God destroyed the world with a flood and He saved Noah, his family, and humanity from utter destruction. God made a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth and all who lived on it (Gen 8:20-22). And since the reason He destroyed the world was humanity’s unabated wickedness, He instituted three guardrails to hold back human depravity following the Flood. These three protective acts are not about the special redemption God has for His people, rather they are related to His common grace that prevents humanity from being as universally wicked as the Genesis 6:5 generation. God’s threefold preservation of humanity is that He reduced lifespans, restrained creation, and regulated justice.
He Reduced Lifespans
Before the flood, God decreed He would limit human life expectancy. He proclaimed that “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years” (Gen 6:3). We know that this didn’t take place immediately because Noah lived to 950 and 350 of those years were post-Flood (Gen 9:28-29). But, when we get to the list of Shem’s descendants (Gen 11:10-26) we see a downward trend in lifespan. Shem lived 600 years, his son lived 500 years, and so on to Abraham’s father, Terah, who lived to be 205. The average lifespan today hovers around 73 years.
There is a short narrative at the end of Cain’s family tree in Genesis 4 that shows why God limited the lifespan of humanity, “Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Gen 4:23-24). Essentially, Lamech is bragging about killing a young man for insulting him. Lamech was powerful, established, and had likely lived a long life by this point. He grew so wicked that he bragged about murdering a young man (possibly even a child). Someone doesn’t wake up one morning and decide to murder someone and then brag about it. No, this type of evil is built over years of rejecting the Lord and reveling in sin. God limited our lifespan to give our evil nature less time to percolate.
It’s telling of human nature that one of the most effective ways God has hedged our evil is by making it so we die at a younger age. The longer sinners live, the more sinful they become. Living a long life of rebellion leads to worse forms of rebellion. When people were living for hundreds of years they didn’t become wiser, better, or less likely to commit sin, they became wicked beyond comprehension. They earned the Flood over long, wicked, lives. And without this divine intervention, we would too.
A shortened life is an extreme mercy for wicked people. By limiting our lifespan He gave us less time to grow in our sin. God promised He would never again destroy the world as He did because humanity would never have the individual ability, or time, to grow as wicked as our longlived forefathers. God preserved humanity by limiting how long humans live because apart from Christ we only get worse with age.