Noah: the man and the movie star

This is opening weekend for a new movie called Noah. It is described as not being Biblically accurate. It is interesting the number of Christians opposed to this film. Likewise, it’s equally amusing the number of Christians in favor of the movie.

I haven’t seen it yet. I will though.

I will go to the movies expecting the story on the screen to be very different from the Biblical text. I’m ok with that. I like movies. I like movies made from books. I like the Bible. So this should be interesting. The makers of the film have told us it strays from the Bible story. So if you know that going in, then you can’t gripe about the artistic liberties taken.

Looking at the story of Noah is a good thing. One of the churches I worked for had a depiction of the ark with the animals in the nursery. And likewise a lot of the churches I have visited have had posters of arks, rainbows and a bearded fellow smiling near a huge boat. So we think we know the Noah story well. And because we do, it is sanitized for us. We even have cute VBS songs about Noah and the ark. We know the Noah story, right?

But do we? Who is this man that is 10 generations from Adam? Even at his birth his father spoke these words about him, “…He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29 NIV). Noah will be a comforter. But his comfort will be the undoing of creation.

The world of Genesis 6 is very different from the world that God made in Genesis 1-2. The resounding good echoed throughout the opening scene of the creation narrative is replaced with the wickedness of humanity and a grieved God. As a matter of fact, from Genesis 3 on man gets further and further away from Eden. From Adam and Eve’s failure with the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to Cain killing his brother Abel, mankind is in open rebellion against Their Creator.

Isn’t that the nature of sin? To exult self over God’s rule. From Eve’s curiosity, to Cain slaying his brother! this ugly self exultation is clearly the new normal. Genesis 4-6 paints a picture that only gets worse.

We read that God was grieved that he made man ( Gen 6). His plan is to undo creation and to start over. Look at the words from Genesis 6:

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. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:5, 6, 11-13 NIV)

Enter Noah. He had found favor with God. Isn’t this one of the acts of mercy that in this climate of corruption, wickedness and violence that one could find favor with God. He is found to be righteous. A good definition of righteousness is that there is a balance between justice and mercy. Noah seems to care about the same things God is concerned about. Righteousness doesn’t mean that Noah is flawless. If we keep reading we recognize that the problem of Genesis 3 lives on after the flood waters recede. Other than being married and having three sons we aren’t told much else about him. His righteousness is meant to be read in stark contrast to the wickedness of humanity. Noah is different. Noah’s family is meant to be different. The plan of God included provision for Noah and his family and quite a few animals. Noah does what God asks. The flood comes, the ark is boarded and the earth and all life is destroyed.

We aren’t told about the many days that Noah and his family are on the ark. There is no mention of conversations. We aren’t told Noah’s or anyone else’s dreams, hopes or fears. It is quite possible their worst dreams have come to fruition. We are told that the waters come, and life is destroyed. While this same water destroyed life, through the ark it also saves 8 lives. I want to take our attention for a minute to Genesis 8. As the earth is now purged, the language of Genesis 8 is strikingly familiar to Genesis 1. There is a wind over the earth (8:2), whereas in Gen 1 the spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. The word for wind in Hebrew is the same word for spirit. We were meant to see God re-creating, re shaping, re-forming the earth. He is undoing the forces of chaos that he ultimately controls. This is a powerful moment in the scene. God isn’t done with his creation. God isn’t going to abandon to the earth nor his people. Keep reading in Genesis 8 and the creation language continues, dry land appears, and Noah’s family is to multiply. God is all in with the people made in his likeness. He promises to never curse the ground nor to destroy all life again in spite of humanity’s wickedness (Gen 8:21).

It isn’t until Genesis 9 that we get  into the rainbow. The rainbow is a sign of the covenant that God makes with Noah and his sons. Before we get to the rainbow, God once again tells the descendants of Adam that they are to be fruitful and multiply. God seems to be reminding Noah that they were created to rule over creation. God says a word about human diets and human relationships. Humanity is to avoid eating meat with blood still in it, and we are to honor the image of God in every human. God’s end of deal is to not destroy the world again by the waters of a flood. His sign of remembrance is a rainbow.

Right after this covenant agreement that God makes with Noah, we read about Noah the man of the soil planting a vineyard and getting drunk and naked. It’s interesting that Adam (man) was formed from dirt. In Gen 2:4 the point of view is from the ground up telling the story of the dirt man made prince of creation. Here in Gen 9 Adam’s great x10 grandson is a man of the soil, once again the point of view is from the ground up. Keep in mind Gen 6-8, the point of view seems to be looking from above or a cosmic point of view. Noah, the dirt man dabbles in the dirt and plants a vineyard and gets naked. The very first man was planted in the Garden by God was himself naked and felt no shame. Only this time, one of Noah’s sons looks upon his father’s nakedness (Ham) and Noah curses his youngest son’s son. An interesting end to otherwise epic tale. So from a few chapters in Genesis we aren’t told a lot about Noah. There isn’t a lot dialogue. As a matter of fact, Noah doesn’t actually speak until chapter 9. His first words are to curse the son of his youngest son. God is the primary speaker. God speaks and Noah does what he is told. Maybe Gen 6-9 is less about Noah and more about God? We do see sin living on.

I think of extreme importance in this whole story is the sad words in Gen 8:21, “that every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” The flood was God’s way of undoing the mess that mankind made in a hurry after getting sent out of Eden. But the flood wasn’t enough to undo the effects of sin in the human condition. That story is one that will play out in the rest of the  Bible as God’s redemptive love unfolds and ultimately climaxes in the coming of God himself In the person of Jesus. The Noah story also reveals the mercy and love of God. God doesn’t throw in the towel. He is in the buisness of offering us a mulligan. If you have ever played golf, you recognize a mulligan as an act of grace. If you have children, you recognize the need for a mulligan daily! The Noah story points to the future wiping away of the sin problem we all have. God is committed to us in our mess.

If people leave theater realizing that God is concerned about us, how we treat one another and are willing to get into the Bible to re-examine a familiar tale than I am ok with that.

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About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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