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).
Yet, God worked through Noah, a mediator (Gen. 6:8ff), as He does, to bring salvation through judgment. 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).
20 Observations from Genesis 1-3
Gen. 1:1—We see the answer to our and the universes origin (and logic, math, science, etc.).
Gen. 1:24-25—We see where the different “kinds” of animals came from. It sounds like God made each different “kind” or type of animal with enough genetic code to produce all the different types of that kind but that they would stay with that “kind” or genetic code. There are similar genetic trademarks between each “kind” yet don’t overstep their kind. This is because they are made by the same Maker and He left the same stamp of intelligence on each of them.
Gen. 1:26-27—Humans have worth and should not be disregarded. From here we see humans have great potential. We also see grounds here for the immorality of mistreating humans. (People have argued that the idea of human rights came from the Christian understanding that all humans are made in the image of God).
Gen. 1:28-30 cf. 2:15—We see a call to stewardship and industry; something that has always been important for survival and compassion.
I use to do construction and I remember my boss telling me that if you get something plumb, straight up and down, then it would go all the way up to the moon forever. But if you get it wrong by just a little bit than you are going to be off by a lot in the end. What you do in the beginning has a big impact on where you end up. It is the same with the Bible. The book of Genesis is very foundational. Without a good grasp of Genesis the rest of our theology will likely crumble to the ground and be worth nothing. So much is built on it. If we are off here, we are going to be way off down the road of the Bible.
There are many “plot conflicts” in the book of Genesis. They will serve as our compass to find our way through the huge book that is Genesis. Leland Ryken has wisely said “Stories are always built around plot conflicts. These conflicts progress toward some type of resolution… Noting plot conflicts is one of the best ways to organize a story, either in the actual process of reading or when talking about the story” (How to Read the Bible as Literature, 41). So, there are three things I want to pay careful attention to and note their expansion in the rest of Scripture and their fulfillment through or in Jesus the Christ.
Here are a few of the themes that are the building blocks of the theology of Genesis (NDBT, 140) and in many ways the whole Bible: (1) The promise of seed, i.e. offspring, (2) the promise of land, and (3) the promise of being a blessing to the nations (see esp. 12:1-3). All of these themes are in embryonic form in Genesis chapter three and expand through the rest of the book. They continue to expand through the Old Testament but don’t find their true fulfillment until the New Testament and the coming of the Promised One. Truly, even then, in the New Testament, there is still an element of the “not yet” until in Revelation all things are made new.
“Where are you?”
“Where are you?”
In the muck and mire.
“Where are you?”
Setting the world on fire.
Wrapped with the serpent.
Covering beauty in foliage and the land with shame.
“Where are you?”
I have yet to know.
It is dark. But I love it.
It is dark. I can hide.
(“Pleasures untold await”) I’ll just hide and hear “where are you?”
I’m in the muck and the mire. I’m in the filth I’ve created. I’ll stay here. I’ll wade in pain.
I’ll close my eyes. Shut up my mind. I’ll shut out any glimmer of grace and light.
Night, night; I’m free. Free to walk. Free to stumble. Free from the sun, from the light. O’ night!
“Where are you, Adam?”
“You were in Eden.”