I am so thrilled to be ending this series on Noah. I know I shouldn’t say that, because it was my own decision to start this, but seriously, I am so glad to not read about Noah anymore. It’s been tough and challenging for my soul. I have resisted learning from it and applying it to my everyday waiting. Finally, today I get to read about Noah getting off the boat! Yay! No more waiting! Surely, there won’t be a hard lesson with this one, right? 😉
Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:15-22).
Finally, Noah and his family are allowed to escape their waiting. Finally, they are out of that stinkin’ ark. Finally, we see the worship and praise of glad hearts that are relieved to be done with the waiting! We finally get to the words that we have grown to associate with the story of Noah. Finally, it’s starting to sound like the Sunday School felt board of my youth. Now, all that’s missing is the colorful rainbow.
Ahh…there it is, FINALLY, in verse 19 of Genesis chapter 9: “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
We love to hear of God’s covenant…especially when it’s a promise to not destroy the earth in a horrific globe consuming torrential downpour. We love to rest in the beautiful imagery of a magical rainbow filling the skies, with a felt cutout of a white bearded Noah underneath, standing on a green oval next to a pair of elephants. This is what we remember when it comes to Noah. This is what we are taught as children: God loves us and makes promises to us.
But we aren’t taught as children the bits of the story that are uncomfortably long and annoyingly difficult to swallow. We aren’t taught the whole story.
Yes. God’s promise here with the rainbow is good…real good…some of His finest work. He’s spectacular in the role of promise maker and covenant keeper.
But, that’s not the conclusion of the Noah account.
“The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
He also said,
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
May God enlarge Japheth,[d]
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”
After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died” (Genesis 9:18-29).
Even if it were socially acceptable to have a naked and passed out felt Noah, I’m sure we would refrain from retelling this portion of the story to our children. Why?
Because it’s not a dreamy rainbow…and it’s an inappropriate scene…
Noah was about the closest thing to a celebrity that could be found in his day. The people of the whole earth came from him. Noah was channel 6’s citizen hero: He saved cute kitties and endangered salamanders during the massive flood. He was the one wise enough to fashion an ark, brave enough to load it up with two of every kind, patient enough to outlast the waters. (He would have done great on Survivor). He was a legend, a war hero. And that’s exactly where we like to leave the story hanging: with the legend given a promise by God left to re-populate the earth.
But he fell. Hard.
Instead, we are left with a picture of a drunk old man, filled with shame and embarrassment, who lashes out in anger against a grandson. (A grandson, who didn’t do anything wrong, but whose father disrespected Noah by telling his other sons about his drunkenness.)
So here it is…the kink in my rainbow. I thought we’d finally get to the sunshine and moonbeams of the Noah story, only to be left with the nastiness of our human nature. God is so amazing and faithful, making the firmest of promises to his people…and then his people act like this…nasty.
Noah is no different than you and I, no different than the Israelites who turned to worthless idols, no different than the disciples who abandoned Jesus in the garden.
The hard lesson: God is so faithful, and I am NOT.
Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I’ve got the stuff of legends, especially biblical legends, or at least that it’s somehow attainable. I want to believe that by digging into these famous people, I will learn the secret to waiting, to patience, to faithfulness, to thankfulness, to joy, etc. I trick myself into believing that I, like Noah, Moses, Ruth, Esther, Peter, Paul, will be swept up in a tale of adventure and transformation to be repeated for generations to come. I put my hope in gaining all the favorable characteristics of the “greats”…whether their passion, their perseverance, their faith, or their legendary adventure.
But when I read the fine print of every story, I see that they all bear testimony to the weakness of our humanity, to our frail nature, our wishy-washy-ness, and our faithlessness.
Noah reminds me that 1) yes, God makes a covenant to the world that never again will He destroy the entirety of it with a flood, and 2)
God has to make rainbow promises because He’s got every good reason to be done with us.
I find my stomach churning nightly during the evening news. Human trafficking runs rampant, hidden slavery joints tucked away in nearly every other shopping strip mall on the way to my children’s school. Social media lights up when the next superstar pastor is caught in infidelity. Our country rallies around athletic heroes arrested for spousal abuse or after being found overdosed in places of ill repute. I find myself yelling, once again, at my child who wants nothing more than to spend time with his momma, but my selfishness turns me against my own flesh and blood.
I am just like Noah.
God has every reason to wipe me out. He has every reason to annihilate this world full of people who can’t seem to get it together.
We are a bunch of Noahs, who don’t know our gluttonous selfish limits and breathe curses when our sin is bled out naked for all to see.
But we have a God, who in His great love makes covenant after covenant with HIMSELF on our behalf. “The Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth'” (Genesis 8:21).
He reminds HIMSELF, that though what we deserve is eternal death, the truly just thing is to remain faithful to His promises.
That rainbow…it’s not a covenant reminder for us, it’s a reminder for HIM.
“When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:14-15).
I am floored. I am Noah. I am drunk and passed out, unworthy of such a promise. His covenant is so good, because we are so NOT.
It’s not about how great Noah was for all his years of waiting. The point is not to assess these biblical greats as impressive, or dare I say, to encourage myself to be more like them. The point is that God is the one who is above all and through all the hero, the legend, the impressive one. So yes, in the end, FINALLY, we get to the good part, though still a hard pill to swallow when chased with my selfish pride …HE IS FAITHFUL.
Angie, once again, your writing is amazing! What are some other unfinished Sunday School lessons?