Scripture: Genesis 6:13-22
Possibly one of the most recognizable stories from the Old Testament. The flood and Noah’s Ark.
That story is recognizable for almost anyone, whether your Jewish or Christian or not. The phrase, “Noah’s Ark” brings to mind images of an huge wooden vessel with animals on it two by two, or sitting on dry land surrounded by water with a rainbow in the sky. If you google that phrase, the first options that come up are religious in nature but the places that come up are:
Noah’s Ark Pet Store
Noah’s Ark Waterpark
Noah’s Ark Animal Clinic
Noah’s Ark Preschool
Noah’s Ark is so well known and the story is also really troubling. If we read, like really read, Genesis 6, 7, 8, and 9, the whole story that we condense down to cute images of animals is a troubling story and one that I have struggled with.
God sees that humanity has become full of evil and violence, so God decides to start over. Hit the reset button. To wipe away, to erase, to start fresh, not just with humanity but all creation. That idea alone makes me feel queasy but there’s also interesting language used to describe God. “The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken. So the Lord said, “I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created.”
When I think of, lashing out after heartbreak the first thing I think of is a Carrie Underwood song, not God. It’s like God has these big feelings, lashes out, and doubles down. These chapters emphasize the destruction of creation over and over and over again, like excessively. And as you read the section leading up to the flood God feels so, petty, so violent, so human. At first I thought it was ironic. God erases creation because humanity is too violent? God responds to human violence with violence? And then I thought, maybe that’s part of the point. Maybe the point is for us to recognize how human-like God seems here and recognize the pivot God makes at the end of the story. Because the story doesn’t end with the flood.
Humanity becomes evil and violent.
God regrets making humans, feels heartbroken, wipes out everything except for Noah, his family, and some animals.
And then, as the planet recovers, God goes no, no, no, no, no, no. I will never do this ever again.
“God remembered Noah, all those alive, and all the animals with him in the ark….Noah built an altar to the Lord. He took some of the clean large animals and some of the clean birds, and placed entirely burned offerings on the altar. The Lord smelled the pleasing scent, and the Lord thought to himself, I will not curse the fertile land anymore because of human beings since the ideas of the human mind are evil from their youth. I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done.” God turns that last statement into a promise and seals that promise with the rainbow, as a reminder. “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
Is this a story about animals and an ark? Sure.
Is this a story about God’s faithfulness towards Noah? Sure.
Was this story written in such a way that it also teaches us how God wants us to respond to a cruel and unjust world? Yes.
It doesn’t take a lot for us to realize this world still has cruelty, violence, oppression, and injustice. Whether we have experienced it personally, experienced it as group, or heard it on the news, we know, people are capable of great goodness and care and are also capable of great harm and cruelty. And when we hear about injustice or experience it, we may want to lash out. We may want to respond by attacking with words or actions or physically. But the story of Noah and the Ark, the story of Genesis 6-9, the story of the flood, teaches us the opposite. God responds to violence with violence and in the end says no, never again. Violence was not the answer then and is not the answer now. In the face of a cruel and unjust world, God challenges us to chose peace.
Not to ignore what’s happening, not to ignore what we and people around us experience but to respond in ways of peace. In ways that bring wholeness and healing. Whether you are 5, 25, 65, or 85, there are ways to stand up for others, to speak up, to speak out that don’t involve lashing out. That could be on the playground or in the cafeteria. That could be in a board room or break room. We can tell a teacher, get an adult, use our words, or go get help. We can set boundaries around conversations with love and firmness. We can write letters, contact our legislators, march peacefully, attend protests, we can volunteer with and support communities experiencing discrimination. We can not tolerate injustice, cruelty, and harm in ways that do not perpetuate harm. In the face of bullying, bigotry, injustice, cruelty, jokes at the expense of someone or some group, in the face of our worst human tendencies to demean, damage, and demoralize, God challenges us to not lash out but to respond in ways of peace, wholeness, and healing.
I wish this world didn’t have cruelty, injustice, and violence in it, but it does. The good news, is that God does not abandon us to the worst parts of this world. Instead, God shows us and teaches us how to respond. The story of Noah, the ark, and the flood, shows us the futility of violence and teaches us better more life-giving paths. God invites us to
Be peace in the face of violence
Be justice in the face of injustice
Be forgiveness in the face of resentment and grudges
Be love in the face of hate
This week, in your daily life, be a rainbow reminder that there is a better way.