Why The Flood?

Why The Flood?

The movie “Noah” is now in the theaters. It is difficult to produce a movie based on a biblical story and make it appealing to a wide, secular audience, so I understand some cinematic liberties were taken. I guess some people are upset because it shows Noah getting drunk after the flood, but that really happened (Gen 9: 20-21). It happens to be the first time either vineyards or wine are mentioned in the Bible. I’ll probably take a pass on going to see it since my taste runs more to comedies and cartoons. The last movie I saw was the Lego Movie, and before that was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs II, not to mention Frozen.

But let’s answer a different question: why did God send the flood anyway? And what difference does it make today?

The story begins in Genesis chapter 6.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen 6:5-8)

Man’s wickedness was so great, that even his imaginations and thoughts were evil, ALL THE TIME! And notice that the reference is to the thoughts of the heart, not the mind (see “Your Heart“). All of man’s affections and desires were captivated by his own evil thoughts and imaginations. But Noah was different. It has been said that mercy withholds punishment that is deserved and grace provides blessing and happiness that is not deserved. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Unlike what the movie portrays, God actually spoke to Noah and gave him instructions, and when he does he provides more information about why he has come to this destructive decision:

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark … (Gen 6:11-14)

The earth was filled with violence. This was the main reason that God decided to destroy the earth. Man exhibited his violent nature right from the start. After Cain and Abel were born, Cain turned in rage on his brother and killed him. God said to Cain, “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” It was the first human blood shed, but not the last, and now the earth is filled with blood and violence. So God tells Noah that he will destroy the earth.

Even with this depravity before him, God is merciful and patient. Noah spent a hundred years building the ark, and during that time was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5), telling all who would listen about the judgment that was coming. Noah’s grandfather was Methusaleh, the man who lived longer than anyone else. His name means “his death shall bring judgment” and if you add up the numbers in Genesis chapter 5 you will see that he died the same year as the flood. So 969 years before the flood, a child is born and given a name that predicts that God’s judgment is coming, but then God lets him live longer than anyone else. God is indeed gracious and merciful!

So what does this have to do with us today, other than maybe spending an afternoon at the movie theater to see a story loosely based on the scriptural account? Well, Jesus made a prediction that mentions Noah and his times.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is [in your midst]. And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see [it]. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after [them], nor follow [them]. For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one [part] under heaven, shineth unto the other [part] under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed [them] all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two [men] in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two [women] shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two [men] shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body [is], thither will the eagles be gathered together.

“As it was in the days of Noah… so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” The days when the Lord shall come again will have the same character as there was in Noah’s day – a world full of violence. Now there have been many times in history that were particularly violent: the days of Genghis Khan, the “eastern front” in Russia in World War II, the concentrated violence of the nuclear weapons exploded in Japan, and the destructive nature of communism in the 20th century that led to the deaths of perhaps 100 million people. But I marvel at the nature of violence that currently surrounds us. Obviously there are places in the world that are suffering from war and revolutionary resistance, but here in our peaceful nation we are surrounded by it as a means of entertainment.

In the first place, we can watch all the contrived violence we want at the movies and on TV. Not like the “old days” when the bad guy was shot and he clutched his chest and fell over. Now we have exploding heads and disembowelled teenagers. Video games are becoming more realistically violent at the behest of those who play them; the more violent, the more successful they are. And one of the most popular memes on the internet is the “epic fail”, which tend to show people getting hurt or vehicles being destroyed in various ways. And this violence is not meant to shock or cause moral outrage, it is for entertainment!

The character of our age appears similar to that of the days of Noah. The judgment may well be upon us. So what is the solution, what can one do, where is God’s grace? Here’s more verses from Genesis.

And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation…
For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him…
And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights…
And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in. (Gen 7:1,4-5,10-12,16)

When I read this passage in Sunday School, I ask the kids, “Where was God when he said this to Noah?” Obviously, he had to be in the ark or else he would have said “Go into the ark.” Deliverance from judgment is not obtained by our own efforts, but by responding to an invitation from God, an invitation to be with God. I don’t know what is portrayed in the Noah movie, but notice that Noah didn’t shut the door, God did. Noah and his family and the animals entered the ark, and the door still stood open. Anyone else could have joined them, but no one did, and God finally shut Noah and his family in. The way of deliverance was now closed, and everyone else who had refused the invitation perished.

Jesus Christ offered the same invitation when he was here:

“Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28)

He invites each and every person to come to him. When the door of the ark stood open, there was no more work to be done, Noah had finished it. It was as simple as walking through the door. The same is true today. Christ’s invitation rests on a work that is completed, his death on Calvary. And he also said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” (John 10:9)

Judgment is due. It may not be today or next week, but it is inevitable. There was only one door to the ark, and there is only one door to eternal life, the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the last verses in the Bible still offers the invitation to all:

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Rev 22:17)

The door is still open, will you come in?

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2 thoughts on “Why The Flood?

  1. The co-writer and director of Noah won’t be coming through the door, since he’s a (non-observant) Jew, but the flood story would be awfully dull if they just filmed it “like the book” anyway. I mean, Noah has no dialogue until long after the flood is over! Still, I enjoyed your meditation on the source material.

    Movie adaptations are never, and can never be like books, because they aren’t books. In the theater, you can’t go back over the parts you want to review. You have no control over how fast the story is presented. And you have to consume the entire product like a meal, from start to finish in one sitting. There’s never been any such thing as a “faithful” movie adaptation of a book. At best, the two mediums might share character names, some plot events, and maybe some of the point-of-view. In the case of most books, people can accept that impossibility, and go into “just tell me a good story” mode. But adaptations from sacred books are expected to do this impossible thing?

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    • I agree with your point about books and movies. They are completely different methods of conveying information, emotion, etc., and they can’t be made “equivalent.” It’s why I generally don’t see movies based on Bible stories, because they tend to miss what I see as “essential” components of the narrative. In this case I do like the portrayal of Noah as a “manly” man, a physical, working man, not a fluffy-bearded grandfatherly type. After all, he did build an ark!

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