Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark and the Bible’s Narrative Arc

“…the whole 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” (Gen. 6:11b-12).

The story of Noah and his ark has always been a difficult story. Knowing the context of the story is helpful though.

So, what was going on before God destroys the world with a flood?

Well, just a few chapters earlier we see that God made an incredibly good and beautiful creation (see e.g. Gen. 1:31). We see God made people–all people–with dignity and worth (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2). We see God gave people good things to do (Gen.1:28).

But, we also see, humans didn’t listen. We see that in the Fall of humanity (Gen. 3), the first murder (Gen. 4:8), and the growing corruption and violence (Gen. 6:5). In Genesis, we go from God and good creation to growing corruption very quickly (that’s also representational of my own tendency).

It was not God who “paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” That’s what humans had already done. Humans damaged and defiled the very thing that would have brought them endless delight. Humans turn from fresh fulfilling water to putrid puddles.

But, that’s not it. Humans also hate. They hate humans that were made with the dignity of God. They hate and they hurt. They abuse and injure. And even kill.

Before God destroyed the world in the flood, humans destroyed the world with their sin. In God’s act of destruction, He was actually bringing a type of deliverance. He could have, and in a sense considered, destroying the world completely (Gen. 6:6-7).[1]

Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff)[2], as He does, to bring salvation through judgment.[3] God provided a type of rescue when wrath was deserved.

Ultimately we know, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, took the wrath of God and the violence of the world on Himself. When we understand the whole context of the story of Noah’s ark, we see it is not God at fault. He is not the guilty party for the destruction of the world.

Instead, we see we are at fault. We carry out atrocities. We turn from God, where alone there is life, to trifles and trivialities. We hate humans, who have eternal value and being, and love things that perish in a moment.

When the story of Noah’s ark is understood in context, from the perspective of the whole of redemptive history, we see how amazing it is that the LORD is both just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus alone for rescue (see Rom. 3:25-26).

When we see the Bible’s narrative arc, that Jesus brought rescue by Himself taking the violence and corruption of the world on Himself, Noah’s ark can be rightly understood for what it was: God bringing gracious salvation through judgment.

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[1] It seems it was also to rid the world of the corrupting influence of the Nephilim (Gen. 6:4). 

[2] “Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8). Noah, unlike his whole generation, was a righteous man that walked with God (v.9). “He did all that God commanded him” (v. 22). 

[3] James Hamilton has written an excellent book called, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment. 

*Photo by Camille Villanueva

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