As we closed out the second act in what we will call the introduction, Cain has been affected by his parents (not so differently than we are) and his lineage is affected, as well. It seems forgiveness is going to be a major “red thread” in the story God is telling here with the Bible. We will see as we progress.
Act 3 is the table of nations. I won’t bore you with this section. However, I would say it is so much more than a list. And I would refer you to Sandra Richter’s The Epic of Eden for her take on the end of chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6 and how they are connected. This is a great way to capture the “Nephilim” and who they were.
Act 4 is the big boat.
In chapter 6 we are introduced to a terrible point in human history:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Again, just a surface-level evaluation of this passage raises some fairly serious questions.
What was so wicked? What does it mean that the Lord regretted? Was He surprised? He knew what was going to happen, didn’t He? Why do the animals and creeping things and birds have to pay for man’s sinfulness? What makes Noah so awesome? How did Noah find favor with God?
These questions are all related, and to try to answer them one at a time is foolish.
Let’s begin with the last question in our list and move from there. How did Noah find favor with God? That is probably something we want to know.
Remember that thing about names? When you name something in the Jewish world, you do two things. First, you take authority over that thing or person. Second, you describe its character. Maybe there is something in the meaning of his name that will shed light on this story.
The name Noah means, “He rests.”
There has been a lot of stir around the recent movie about Noah. Everything from the rock monster Nephilim to the attempt at environmental liberalism. But I would ask you to be careful before you jump to judgments based in ignorance.
The movie Noah was taken largely from the Book of Enoch. This document is called “midrash.” In modern Christian language, that would be a commentary. The question in my mind is, “How did they come up with that?”
Well, let’s go back and review the story. God is not angry and He created a world that is good and full of potential. God placed man in the garden to steward the garden. Man tried to step outside of God’s ideal agenda for the world and chaos entered.
God’s ideal was for men to properly steward creation, and then God told them to take a day of rest in order to remember it is God and His agenda that matters.
Now, what is God so upset about? And what is He blessing Noah over? We have to conclude these things are connected to creation and God’s agenda and our trying to do it on our own. Maybe it wasn’t so far fetched after all. But that is another topic for another time.
At some level, the stewardship of creation is at stake here and all of creation is paying the price. It is almost as if the destroying of creation once and for all did creation a favor. It was brought out from underneath the oppression of men and women.
And then there was Noah.
These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
What a thing to be said about him. I would love that to be said about me. But the rabbis notice something about Noah I had always missed. I think it is important to wrestle with this truth.
The rabbis call Noah, “The man with the fur coat.”
When it is cold outside, you can put on a fur coat and warm yourself, or you can build a fire and warm everyone around you as well. They are getting that from a very important piece of Noah’s story.
We never see Noah plead for anybody around him. Abraham does. He pleads for God to spare Sodom for ten righteous people. Noah never asks God to spare anyone.
Noah builds the boat over the course of 120 years. He never tells anyone of the impending doom that is awaiting them — no preaching, no pleading, not even casually mentioning it.
But he was righteous.
Who cares how righteous I am individually if it doesn’t translate into the lives of people around me? And this is not modern American Christianity.
“All I need is Jesus.” I hear this phrase often. And unfortunately this is being taught in churches. I could not disagree more with this statement. We are not made to stand alone. We are made to function in community. And Noah never got that.
But he was righteous.
So why do we follow the rules to begin with?
For some, it is about having God be pleased with me or avoiding punishment or because He says to or some other “conditional” response.
We follow the rules for two main reasons (although I am sure there are more). First, we learn the nature of God. God is life, therefore we do not murder. We do not commit adultery because God is love. We do not steal because God is generous. And on it goes.
The second reason we follow the rules is because it puts our God on display to the world. We tell the world the story of our amazing God by the way we keep the rules. And make no mistake, the world is watching.
Noah seems to have missed this second part.
Was he still “saved?” Sure, but who else would have come along for the ride if he had said something? We will never know.
Perhaps part of what we learn from Noah is that personal righteousness is not the greatest good. It is important, don’t get me wrong. But putting our God on display well is critical to people being able to buy into the story God is telling in the world.
So, may you be righteous in your generation, but focused on representing God to others. May people call you the person with the big fire. May you rest in the grace of a God who closes the gaps in your life. And when God says it is going to rain, may you build a big boat!
Questions for this session:
- Would people describe you as a person with a fur coat?
- What would they use to make that decision?
- What would it look like for you to be more invested in sharing your God with others?
Question for next time:
- What is the big deal about a building?