Instructions on the box | Genesis 6:11-22
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. Genesis 6:11-22 | ESV
We wrestle with the morality of the Flood, of such a waterworld wipeout of everything. How could things possibly be so bad as to warrant that? Not only men, women, and children, but animals and insects, birds and plants. Everything. A near genocide, divinely perpetrated. Of course, perhaps we protest too much from our air conditioned seats. We who judge do the same things, don’t we? But it is perhaps a good sign that we wrestle with this – and remember, even God “repented” of it afterwards and promised never to do it again (as we breathe a collective sigh of relief with each passing storm and localized catastrophe). It’s perhaps a sign of progress in us that we debate God’s morality in such massive, calamitous destruction, rather than licking our chops and asking, “Okay, just who or what can we obliterate next?” But the reality is that we often have to cut in order to cure (we call it surgery); and we still nuke ourselves to eliminate cancer in our own bodies. So, on some level, we can recognize the dynamics of the situation in Genesis 6. The Flood wasn’t a mere divine temper tantrum, God run a muck. It was an act of recreation, of returning the world to the “tohu ve-vohu” (without form and void) state of Genesis 1. Only he doesn’t re-form a man from the dust, upgrading him to human 2.0. He takes the one redeeming, surviving link in the Adam/Seth human chain, cuts him loose, and deposits him in a box that we know as the “ark.” But not just that man, that man and his family. Humanity enters two by two – as do the animals, beasts, insects, and birds. Saved and relaunched as families. Another distinctive mark in this biblical Flood narrative? God shares his heart and his plan with Noah. He takes Noah into his confidence. Noah trusts God, and God trusts Noah (another key word makes its first appearance here: covenant; a significant word in the trust department). And, unlike other stories that have the hero building a boat shaped like an 180-foot tube four times larger in tonnage than Noah’s ark, this vessel shares the dimensions of modern sea-worthy ships – although, significantly, no mention is made of a rudder or wheel to steer it (there’s that whole trust thing again). So many intentionally left blanks in this story. So much we would like to know, to ask. But what is key is that this was quite literally a floating box filled with “nests” as creation would be gathered under divine wings and conveyed to a new heavens and a new earth where Immanuel dreams would have a chance to be born. Not to mention you and me.
To what extent do you wrestle with issues of divine justice and mercy in the Flood story? Regardless of how you land in such moral debates, how ready are you to answer the call of Life in the midst of a culture of death? How is God calling you to be Noah in this generation, in this time and place?
Lord, lift up my eyes to see divine possibilities, to embrace hope, in the midst of hopelessness; to be a preserver of life in the midst of a culture of exploitation. Show me how to be Noah in my generation, my neighborhood, my home. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.