In the DC universe, Gotham is the notorious city plagued by violence, gangs and injustice rescued by the vigilante hero, Batman. Why is Gotham City the archetype for bad governance?
As the effects of the Fall become clear following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden the future of God’s creation seems bleak. Individuals threaten unrestricted retribution and self-rule. God’s resulting judgement and covenant, however, re-establishes governance as a good thing limiting the effects of the Fall.
Passage: Genesis 4:1-16
- How do we see the destruction of the Fall at work here?
- What do we learn about God’s rule?
- Sin must be punished, He is the sovereign judge vv10-12
- Yet there is mercy in the judgement. God limits the evil that can befall Cain vv13-16
Just as in the Garden, God punishes sin and yet His judgement is matched with mercy. His rule is one characterised by justice and retribution for evil committed but one that offers a degree of hope and restoration.
Passage: Genesis 4:19-24
- How does Lamech distort God’s merciful justice?
- The punishment is not proportional to the crime – he kills a man for wounding him v23
- He threatens unlimited retribution twisting God’s mercy on Cain as a license for bloody violence and domination v24
- He becomes the executor of justice – no place for God in Lamech’s eyes vv23-24
The relational breakdown initiated at the Fall threatens to create a vendetta society and spiral out of control with each offence triggering a disproportionate reaction. Much like the disorder, chaos and anarchy of a city like Gotham, Genesis 4 shows a society veering off course into injustice.
Passage: Genesis 6:5-8
- God’s initial creation He calls ‘good’. What does He make of this society?
- How do we once more see God’s rule combining both justice and mercy?
God acts with judgement on His broken creation. Their rejection of Him has destroyed society and brought brokenness and evil to every level of humanity. And yet, once again God, in His great mercy, shows favour to Noah and provides a way to salvation for His broken world. (Read 6:9-8:22 for the full story).
Passage: Genesis 9:1-17
- Look back at Genesis 1. What elements of the creation mandate do you see reaffirmed here? What is new?
- Reaffirmation of ‘Be fruitful and fill the earth’ v1 & v7
- Reaffirmation of human rule over the animals v2
- Reaffirmation of human value and dignity v6
- New provision of animals as well as plants for food (with limitations) vv3-4
- New account to be given for the taking of life vv5-6
- New covenant shown by the rainbow that God will never again destroy the earth by flood vv8-17
- Why is it significant that the creation mandate is reaffirmed?
- Means humans still have a role in ruling over creation, building culture, and imaging God by bringing Him glory
- How does the principle of accountability deal with the problem of a vendetta society?
- God is the judge of all who demands an account for death v5
- Proportional judgement instituted for those that wrongly take life – a life for a life. Here we see the institution of human governance and judgement over one another for the first time v6
- God reaffirms that human life is precious and valuable and not to be treated lightly v6
- How does this change the governing role of humanity?
- Imaging God to one another in the new task of administering justice against and for one another
With Noah as a figurehead of humanity, we see God reaffirm the creation mandate and introduce formal human governance over one another as a limit to human depravity. Justice and mercy again. Moreover, God’s mercy is particularly pertinent in the deployment of the rainbow as a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood.
From here we get the principle of common grace – God giving all humanity, irrespective of faith, a gift they don’t deserve which blesses them and prohibits the destruction of the evil unleashed at the Fall.
- Whilst God’s covenant establishes common grace, what problem still remains?
- How does proportional justice shape our thinking when it comes to human government and law?
- What difference does the principle of common grace make to the way we think about our fallen world?
- How might it shape our approach to broken systems and institutions?
- How might it shape our approach to individual politicians and citizens?
- Thank God for the gift of government as a harbinger of justice and limiter of evil. Pray our governments fulfil this task.
- Thank God for the gift of common grace and the joys we can enjoy as a result.
- Thank God for sending special grace to deal with our fundamental problem – a broken heart and resulting broken relationships.