I’d recommend you read Genesis 6-9 before you read this. Or you could just keep it handy. Or read this and wonder what I’m talking about. Anyway…
Noah seemed like a good idea… and then Friday it rained and rained and rained. And I got pretty stir crazy. But it only rained for 36 hours here not days and days. Still, it definitely sets the mood for my Noah sermon.
Noah may be one of the most widely told and misunderstood stories in the Bible. Sure, there are cute fuzzy animals and little bath toys we can get for the kids. But somehow we fail to see the deep theological implications packed into the intense action of God in redeeming the world he created a mere six chapters into the Bible.
Like many other stories, the rough edges are worn off when we tell the stories to our kids.
In Genesis 6:5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (NIV)
There is such intense evil in the world, the human heart was inclined to ONLY think of evil, that God regretted he’d made human beings.
God as Father regretted that he’d made humans, his children. And he said the only way to make things right was to start over.
God’s sense of goodness, his understanding of right and wrong, is so intense that he literally can’t tolerate evil. Sure, he gave humanity free will, but their inability to choose anything right was so far from what God hoped for humanity, that he knew he had to start over—to allow there to be a chance for goodness to even exist. An infinitely patient God who was thisclose to running out of patience.
And then God saw Noah.
Noah is called “righteous” and “blameless.” Noah tries to live his life “right.” He doesn’t have 10 Commandments or the teachings of Jesus, but he’s trying to be the kind of person that God is glorified by.
Noah is a family man—he’s not one of these men who is throwing himself after cheap relationships and sordid affairs. He’s raising three sons, married to one woman, ignoring the pressures of the society around him to be anything but who he is himself, created in the image of God.
But the writer of Genesis doesn’t want us to miss this: Noah is the thimble of righteousness floating in the seas of evil. He’s the outlier, the one of a kind. In this parabolic story of the “old days,” he’s the once in a lifetime kind of savior that God will continue to raise up to lead the people of Israel. And he’s the kind of man (minus the God part) that Jesus will be, making “Christ figure” a term appreciated by Christians and non- Christians alike.
So God TELLS Noah he’s going to end life as Noah knows it. And he tells Noah that God wants Noah to build an ark of cypress wood.
Now, I want to stop there for a moment. Noah, who is a farmer or a hunter/gatherer, is told to build a giant ark. The Biblical narrative doesn’t take a lot of time trying to describe how he received that information, but consider it here.
What goes through Noah’s mind? If you believe Evan Almighty, the Steve Carrell movie, Noah wants to know if he’s going crazy. If he’s exhausted or beaten down, if he’s seeing things or making them up himself.
I just want to know: what’s an ark?
But Noah dutifully records the dimensions that God gives him, he prepares it just the way that God tells him to.
Can you imagine what went through everyone else’s minds?
What went through the minds of Noah’s neighbors in between drunkenness and debauchery? What was Noah’s wife thinking? How about his sons? Their wives?
“This man has lost it. Someone needs to point out that there’s no water here. That we don’t even know what rain is.”
But Noah keeps building. Even while the haters are laughing at him, pulling up their lawn chairs to watch the spectacle.
And he brings his three sons, their wives, and his wife onto the ark. As well as a zoo full of animals. All the food they would need. All of the food the animals would need.
And God says he’ll make a covenant with Noah. What’s a covenant?
All of this while he’s 599 years old. Seriously.
And then 600 hundred year old Noah endured 40 days and 40 nights in the ark with all of those animals while it was raining, and his closest family members.
And then 150 days as the water stayed on the Earth. Seriously, which would’ve been tougher? The animal smell or the relative interaction?
And then God shut them in. Noah built the ark God told him to. But Noah couldn’t even shut the door. God had to shut the door.
And it says that everything that wasn’t in the ark died. People, birds, mammals. Everything.
And the ark got lifted higher and higher above the earth God had created, while the waters from above and below washed over the earth. Thousands of years later, Jesus would say in John 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Here’s one man in Genesis, Adam, making a choice that alters all of humanity; one man in Genesis, Noah, who alters all humanity’s future by being the one God takes hope and joy in; and later, God sends Jesus who will be one man who will alter all humanity forever.
But finally the water recedes. And Noah sends out a raven through the open window and it just kept flying around. A sign of death, it was transient.
But then Noah sent out a dove, not once, but twice, and it came back with a sign of peace, the olive leaf. Remember how a dove is the “symbol” of the way that the Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism by John? God “baptizes” the world to cleanse it of evil through Noah, then baptizes Jesus to signify his place as the forgiveness of sins for all.
God instructed Noah to come out—every living creature to multiply, be fruitful, and increase in number. After nearly a year of being trapped inside the walls of the ark, who even knows if the Noah family was seasick??? They come outside, releasing the animals.
And Noah’s first move is to sacrifice the animals, at least some of them. SO we figure that some of the animals made more animals on the ark right? And there were probably some baby humans running around too…
And God says to Noah: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
God promises Noah, whose a husband, a father, and probably a grandfather now, that God is watching over all of humanity. And that while judgment and punishment were necessary, it so grieved God’s heart to destroy the world he created, that he’s not going to do it again.
Which tells me one definitive thing about the goodness of God: it is not outweighed by the love God has for humanity.
So God makes the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9—that he will watch over them but that he expects they’re going to behave certain ways:
– they’re not going to eat food while they animal is still bleeding
– that God expects the Noah will only kill animals when necessary for food
– that anyone who kills a human will be held accountable too
– and all of this covenanting is through Noah—and sealed with a rainbow
And then Noah lived 350 more years until he died.
So a quick recap: God sees the world is bad, sees someone with a heart that really wants to be right, chooses to use him to save a whole nation, a whole humanity, and then, seeing all that goodness in Noah, God asked him to do the impossible… and sent him on the craziest cruise anyone has ever been on.
So if God would go there with the “most righteous” man on the Earth, what would he expect of us, who know Jesus, who have heard the good news?
What crazy, impossible, implausible, over the top, out of our comfort level, exciting, amazing thing will God ask us to do for him?
What amazing thing would God ask us to do so that everyone around us would be blessed?
I can guarantee that if you listen to the small voice of God in your heart and through the godly people around you, that you’ll be called to be different.
That people will mock you. That what you’re called to do seems unlikely.
But that in the end, if you follow God and his call on your life, God will be glorified and others will be blessed because of you.
On a day when we’ve celebrated adults who choose to be members here, who embrace what it means to be Christians and Methodist, as we get ready to partner with a church plant to impact our community for the kingdom of God, I find myself asking, “God, what it is that you want from me? What is it that you want from our church?”
Are you asking those questions? Are you ready for whatever wild adventure may be the answer?
Let’s get to building our “ark” for the glory of God, and for the blessing of our community. Amen.