Rev Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
Continuing our series on the redeemed, this month we are reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of Noah. A predecessor of Abraham, God chose Noah and his family to be his means of preserving humankind and the earth’s wildlife in anticipation of renewing creation. Because of the escalating corruption passed on from the first generation of Adam to the days of Noah, God resolved to cleanse his earth through a massive flood that would precipitate rain from the heavens (sky) for the first time. (Until this point in history, fresh water replenished the earth solely by means of underground springs.)
But why Noah? All we are told is that Noah had found favor in God’s eyes (Genesis 6:8). As the story progresses, we learn that Noah obeyed God’s command (Genesis 7:5) with regard to building an ark for his family and for a remnant of the creatures that dwelled on land and in the air. While there is no biblical account of the ridicule and hostility Noah may have encountered, given that the text describes humankind as wicked and harboring only evil thoughts and intentions (Genesis 6:5), it is reasonable to assume that he would have met resistance and ridicule from his peers. Being single-minded for God, Noah would press on for months building an ark and would then quarantine (so to speak) for 150 days afloat a wooden vessel surrounded by a massive body of water—all the while caring for thousands of raucous and smelly animals and family members who likely were running short on patience. Sound familiar during this pandemic?
The theme of redemption permeates this narrative. Through Noah’s faithfulness, the earth is spared a reversal of God’s creation order that would have otherwise reverted back to a state of chaos from which the earth evolved. Post-flood, when Noah built an altar and offered sacrifices of clean animals to the Lord (as a sign of contrition and thanksgiving), God struck a covenant with Noah, promising to never again curse the ground or strike down every living creature:
And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:21-22 ESV
God would also reiterate Adam’s creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:1 and 7) and would ratify his covenant with the sign of a rainbow (Genesis 9:13). Symbolically, the rainbow points toward God in his heavenly realm and represents a unilateral promise that God would self-inflict the consequences of violating the covenant. Foreshadowing the Abrahamic covenant of grace (where the spirit of God unilaterally traveled through halved animal sacrifices), both covenants point to the Cross where the wrath of God would once and for all be appeased through the self-inflicted sacrifice of his Son.
As an epilogue, we are told that after the drama of the flood and the covenant ratification, Noah settled into a mundane existence and planted a vineyard. Whether the result of boredom or loneliness, he later drank an excess of wine and passed out naked in his tent. As one sin begets another, his youngest son then brought shame upon his father by staring at his naked body and reporting the incident (likely in mocking manner) to his brothers.
Even though the flood failed to rid sin from the earth, Noah’s second so (Shem) would become the forefather of God’s chosen people and the Messiah. So there you have it: even the best of us cannot let are guards down. Temptation is a moment’s breath away. Yet, no sin is unredeemable under our Covenant of Grace though Christ. God will accomplish his purposes through us regardless of our missteps. Let the redeemed say, “Amen.”