by Wesley Blackburn
Some stories just aren’t made for children.
Reading the story of the flood, I have to ask myself the question, “Why do we tell this story to kids?” I mean, think about it… this is really one of the saddest stories you can imagine. Mankind was a mess. Impurity was rampant. The world was not what God had hoped for it to be, and it grieved His heart. So what does God decide to do? Destroy everything. Start over. It was that bad, and God was that angry about it.
That’s not exactly the plot from an episode from “Barney.”
But in the midst of this terrible story comes Noah. God asks Noah to take his family and one of each animal into an enormous boat that Noah is supposed to build, and then stay there while God covers the earth with rain. After it’s all over, Noah and his family will be allowed to come out, their life spared.
But have you ever really thought about this story? I don’t like it for a lot of reasons, and one of the main reasons is that it brings up way more questions than it does answers for me about God. How could God kill thousands (maybe millions or billions?) of people all around the earth in one fell swoop, in probably one of the most terrible ways imaginable (drowning)? The Bible frequently extols God’s patience with us… what are we to do with a story like this? Did God just fly off the cuff and get mad? Or was mankind’s present state that bad?
The flood itself kind of scares me; not because I think another flood is coming, but because my sin can cause flood-like experiences in my life. I wonder how many times I’ve grieved the heart of God (Genesis 6:6) because I lived in a way that was so far apart from what He desired from me? I wonder if in some areas of my life, I’m trying God’s patience too much for too long, and some real consequences could be in store for me. I believe in a God that is just and loving, but the flood reminds me that even God might have His breaking points.
But I think one thing I observed more than anything else in this story was a statement about Noah. In Genesis 6:9, we are first introduced to Noah, being told that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” We aren’t really told why God found Noah so righteous and blameless; just that he walked with God, whatever that means.
But as I read, I think I got an idea of what that means. Immediately after being introduced to Noah, the writer of Genesis dives into God giving Noah His plan: He’s going to destroy the people and animals on the earth, and He wants Noah to build an enormous boat to keep him, his family, and two of each animal safe. In the face of sure criticism from the onlookers, what does the Bible say of Noah? “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).
Then, after this, God gives Noah the warning that the flood will start in seven days, and offers some more specific instructions about bringing animals onto the ark. What was Noah’s response? “Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him” (Genesis 7:5).
Noah was a righteous man. The Bible tells us so right here in Genesis, and in fact, in Hebrews 11 (the famous “Hall of Faith” chapter), Noah is commended for his incredible faith in following God. Why? The story of Genesis 6-7 makes me wonder if maybe it was just because Noah did what God asked him to do. When I think of following God, I generally think in terms of what’s the hot new spiritual growth idea. But God is just thinking of faithfulness. Obedience. Trust. The flood reminds me that these are the qualities God is looking for.
Maybe, just like Noah, I need to take some more time to practice those in my life.