Experiences are the arena in which worldviews are proved. The lessons learned are then passed forward for the benefit of others. It might be something as small as a friendly warning to watch out for Aunt Gertrude’s mystery meat casserole (for the record, I have no Aunt Gertrude). Or, it might be something as large as a World War that leaves a mark across the cultural tapestries of the whole globe.
On Sunday we looked at one of the most significant and impactful events in all of history – the flood. Not a flood, but the flood. And we stopped to notice the lessons of sin and grace it teaches us. However, even though we covered* the high points* of the passage, there are many other applications floating* around in the text that invite a deeper* reflection. [*Yep – puns all very much intended. You’re welcome.]
Here are four, though I’d love to hear more from your own thoughts in the comments below.
First, a literal flood matters. Perhaps a better way to put it is that a historical flood matters. Christians today who dare to suggest that biblical events (such as the Creation account, a historical Adam and Eve, a global flood, and the tower of Babel) all happened the way the Bible describes are paraded around as intellectual buffoons. Many, in response to the incessant rancor and mockery, are trying to be more open-minded about such things. Does it really matter if the earth was created out of nothing by a divine word or if it simply appeared by natural processes? Does it really matter if Adam and Eve were fashioned from the dust and from a rib respectively, or if they are figurative archetypes of humanity constructed later? Does it really matter if the flood covered the whole world, or if it was simply a local catastrophe embellished in the ages of oral retelling? After all, can we not still learn the same lessons from the stories even if they aren’t real? Do they not still provide us with spiritual guidance and comfort and moral principles?
To this we must declare – it all matters. It matters because we serve a God who is not the God of fanciful ideas, but the God of time, and space, and matter. It matters that we are able to declare Truth is a Fact – and since the Bible is Truth, what it teaches us are Facts. Scripture is not appealing to our emotions to make us better people, it is declaring reality to which we must conform despite our emotions. I believe in a literal flood that covered the entire planet because my God told me that’s how it happened. If I don’t start believing what He says in Genesis 1, why should I suddenly tune in when we get to Matthew 1?
The consensus of modern scientists is that the consensus of scientists frequently gives way to a new consensus. Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Steven Hawking (as brilliant as they are) all will fade away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. Praise God for those who are courageous enough to study God’s world in a way that doesn’t rule out a priori what is written in God’s Word. For further study, take advantage of the work done by Answers in Genesis (answersingenesis.org), Institute for Creation Research (icr.org), or check out the documentary Is Genesis History, now available on Netflix.
Second, when the Bible paints with black, don’t substitute gray. When we teach our children the stories of the Bible, we sometimes gloss over the yucky parts. As a parent, I appreciate that we must teach our children in age-appropriate ways, but we must also teach them truthfully. The story of the flood is not about a mean ‘ole god who murders everyone that disagrees with him. It is about a great God who looks down upon a world ruined by sin beyond our current capacity to fathom and acts righteously to bring an end to horrific violence and suffering. We need to understand evil and feel its dark shadows if we are to understand our God and appreciate His severe grace. This does not mean reveling in the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:12), but it means granting to evil the weight it deserves in biblical history. (Thanks to author N.D. Wilson for sharing the essence of this observation in an interview.)
Third, teach the rainbow first. We noticed Sunday the irony of our current culture in wearing the rainbow as a symbol of pride in the very things for which God flooded the world. In conversation about this point I heard the remark, “we need to take the rainbow back.” I appreciate and agree with the sentiment. The Church needs to proclaim the truth of God’s Word to our culture in the hopes that the significance of the rainbow can be re-captured. However, we can too easily find ourselves needing to do the same within the Church.
From rainbows to marriage, from morals to gender, from history to eternity – there is a narrative our world is eager to foist upon all of us at every turn. If we are not proactive in teaching the whole counsel of God’s Word to every believer, of every age, at the earliest opportunity – then we will find ourselves not only trying to take back stolen truth from the culture, but from our own hearts. We need to be biblically literate. We need to appreciate the value of building a wall of truth in fresh soil instead of having to tear down walls of deception first.
Fourth, God loves more than just the people. It is true that mankind, as created in the image of God, has a unique and privileged place in God’s universe. Psalm 8 is a powerful reminder of this. It is too narrow a view, however, to think that the world in which we live is merely the disposable wrapper containing humanity. Just as God redeemed mankind, so God will redeem creation.
I’m not saying that all dogs go to heaven. What I am saying is that the fate of creation is bound to the fate of its designated stewards – man. Thus, creation longs to see the day when we will be perfected in Christ so that it can then cast off the burden of the curse we so rudely subjected it to and return to a state of perfect harmony with God and with man (Romans 8:19-20). In the wisdom of God, this process even follows a similar arc in the life of a believer and the course of natural history.
Consider this, the life of the believer consists of spiritual deadness (Ephesians 2:1), followed by salvation symbolized in water baptism (Romans 6:4) and accompanied with the sealing of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), which begins a period of sanctification in which we continue to deal with the old nature of sin but grow in Christ (Romans 7:14-24) until we pass through a final baptism of fire, death, (Luke 3:16) and emerge in our glorified eternal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Creation was subjected to futility by sin (Romans 8:20) followed by a water baptism in the flood (Genesis 7-8) which purified it leading to God forming a covenant with the creation (Genesis 9:9-10) and beginning an era in which His righteous line grew despite still dealing with sin and suffering until creation passes through a final baptism of fire (2 Peter 3:7) and emerges as the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21). Pretty cool huh? God’s plans are big, and what He is doing with us in the Church is an important, but not exclusive, part of those plans.
Fifth, your turn. What thoughts have you been meditating on? Share them in the comments.