Scripture: Noahs’ Ark
Our scripture reading today comes from various chapters in the book of Genesis. You’ll find the reading in your bulletin or on the screen. Listen now for God’s word for you.
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.
16 The Lord said to Noah, “Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.”
17 “I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.
22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth.
21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all humankind.
1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.”
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
11 “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
13 “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.
The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
A story that has captured children and adults imaginations for centuries.
A story that has inspired artists to create artwork like this one…helping our mind grasp the colors and the beauty of the animal kingdom.
A story that led to severe conflict between Christians and scientists over what is called “flood geology.”
How many of you have heard of flood geology?
Flood geology is a Christian approach to science that attributes “many features of the Earth’s present state to a recent global flood.”
Flood geology began in the 20th century.
A man named George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist from Canada and self-taught amateur geologist, wrote a book called The New Geology. In this book he explained the Christian fundamentalist perspective of geology. And apparently, he did so with such style and sophistication “that readers untrained in geology are generally unable to detect the flaws.”3
“Others followed Price in the flood geology movement, including John C. Whitcomb, and Henry M. Morris.
Then in the 1950s there was some push back.
“Bernard Ramm, a baptist theologian and author of The Christian View of Science and Scripture, along with J. Laurence Kulp, a geologist, critiqued Price’s book by pointing out critical errors and omissions… “Ramm, Kulp and others encouraged the American Scientific Affiliation and other organizations not to support flood geology.”
Then in 1961, Young Earth Creationists Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr. updated Price’s work by writing The Genesis Flood. They argued that the creation of the Earth was relatively recent, and that the Fall of Man started the second law of thermodynamics. They claim that Noah’s Flood was global and produced most of the geological strata we see today. Many regard the work of Morris and Whitcomb to be a major foundational step in the development of modern day creation science, which , as we know, has since gained a worldwide foothold.
So, Noah’s Ark.
A powerful story that has caused vicious debate, polarizing religion and science for generations.
It’s common when I meet with new visitors of this church that they want to know where I stand on the Christian vs. Science debate. The age-old litmus test is to ask if we at MBCC believe in evolution.
My answer of course is “Yes.” We see no cause for division between religion and science. We believe God created science for our exploration and understanding of God’s creation.
Still, this dichotomy of science and religion exists today because throughout centuries there have been Christians like George Price and Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, who have needed our holy scriptures to PROVE the existence of God.
And there have been plenty of other Christians, like Ramm and Kulp and us, who have not needed this scientific assurance in scripture. Who instead have encountered this holy book with curiosity and questions about how God is relating to creation and what that might mean for us today.
The story I read just a few minutes ago that you have in your bulletin is stunningly shorter than the one given to us in scripture.
Pull out that bible in front of you and flip through the very first few pages to Genesis chapter 6.
You’ll see that the story of the flood and Noah’s ark spans 3 chapters! It starts in chapter 6 and continues on through chapter 9.
I had to edit it down quite a bit so it would fit it nicely into our bulletin and in the process, I had to pick and choose verses because it’s very repetitive. Each detail, each move in the story plot, is told at least twice.
We start with the explanation for the flood. The wickedness of humanity and God’s disappointment. This is described several times and ways in those first verses.
Those repetitions continue.
Some of them with differing information.
Take a look at 6:19 for example
God says to Noah:
“You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.” (NIV)
And then compare it this verse in chapter 7, verse 2:
God says to Noah:
“Take with you SEVEN pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate.”
In the first verse just one male and one female enter the ark. It doesn’t matter if they are already mates. It doesn’t matter if they are clean or unclean. The goal is just to get two of each and keep them alive.
In the second, God instructs Noah to take more than just one pair of animals. Take 7! But just of the clean ones. Only one pair of the unclean animals. And make sure they are mates.
Another difference happens in the detailing of how long Noah and the animals are on the ark.
One verse says 40 days and 40 nights. Following the logic of parts of the text, it could be an entire year.
Why is it? That there are these repetitions and differing details in the text?
Most scholars agree that this holy story was handed down to us in many different oral forms. And then when it was written, several of these ancient texts were compiled together.
It’s easier in the Hebrew language to see two main stories that are woven together. Scholars call the two main sources the “Priestly” account and the “Yahweh” account. In the Hebrew, these two accounts use different names for God and show different styles of writing.
This is significant information to know as you read the story from scripture otherwise it just doesn’t make sense!
It’s also significant for us as modern believers and scientists to realize that our holy scriptures have a variety of information on this story and it doesn’t present one clear historical scientific explanation for the geology of the earth.
In other words, it puts the creationist debate to rest for a while and allows us to focus our attention into the story plot of the characters. Mainly, to the relationship between God and creation.
This story of the flood and Noah’s ark comes pretty quickly in our scriptures after the creation of the world. Read those first few chapters sometime. Genesis is by far the best family drama I’ve ever read.
You’ll see that it doesn’t take long for God to grow disappointed in us…God’s creation.
Our story begins with God’s deep sadness and grief at the wickedness of his creation. God sees humans shedding each other’s blood, abusing power and GOD HAS HAD ENOUGH. God wants out. God wants to start over.
Most people view God here as evil.
“This can’t be the God I believe in, the God I know in Jesus Christ….” and so we discount this God as the God of the Old Testament. “Not my God.”
But I want you to look closer at the character of God here.
God created humanity with love. In God’s very own image. With God’s very breath inflating our lungs.
God is the natural architect. Designing and delighting in her creation.
And so, I can imagine how God seeing such wickedness and evil coming from us – God’s own creation – would be devastating. How God, like a potter, would need to throw the clay aside and start all over again. Making something new.
But God didn’t destroy everything. God found one good piece in the creation through Noah. And God decided to recycle.
To take this one person. This one family. To use for God’s good.
To take a few animals of every species and to build for them an ark. A safe place. A haven.
To care for their needs and bring them to life on the other side of the storm.
God did destroy. In our story. God saw the wickedness and God destroyed the evil for justice-sake.
But, God also saved.
God washed clean.
God made new.
The story of this flood and of Noah’s ark is a resurrection story for us.
A story of God’s immense love for us.
God’s desire to give justice out of love and God’s expansive forgiveness that begins first with Noah and by the end extends to all of us.
When Noah disembarks the ark, when he knows it is safe, the VERY FIRST thing he does is build an altar to God to worship and say “thanks.”
Let me lay this out a little more…
After forty days (or maybe a year) of living in a smelly zoo of animals…. on a boat with sea legs… probably out of food and patience and energy…
The VERY FIRST thing Noah does is build an altar to God and say thanks.
“Thank you God for showing mercy on me.
Thank you God for showing mercy on my family.
Thank you God for showing mercy on these animals.”
“Thank you, God, for showing mercy on me.”
The text says, God smelled the aroma of the sacrifice and was pleased with the goodness of Noah. Noah’s act of worship prompts the very best part of the story:
The covenant. The promise. The rainbow.
It is then in the story that God tells Noah:
I will never destroy the earth ever again.
Not only do I forgive you this time. But when you mess up – which you will mess up, God notes – I will forgive you always.
Our scriptures are full of resurrection stories. From Genesis to Revelation.
When we can’t reach God. God comes to us.
Ultimately through Jesus, in human form, that we might recognize God.
And recognizing God, we might learn how to be good.
And learning to be good, we might change our ways.
One of my favorite Christian bloggers Rachel Held Evans shares this wisdom:
“God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life. God… is about resurrection.”
So “if you want in on God’s business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock-bottom, scorched-earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world – including those in your own heart – because THAT’s where God works. That is where God gardens.”
God continues to work in us – in all of her creation – to make us new.
And for this we say, “Hallelujah!” Praise be to God for making us new.