February 21, 2021
As I read our Old Testement lectionary text this week, I found myself wanting to hear the rest of the story. The story of Noah. Well, I don’t usually do this – but when was the last time you read the Old Testament story of Noah, in full? As my Old Testament Professor said in seminary; “sometimes it is good to just read the word of God; and let that be enough. We should do this more often.” So, that is what I am going to do today. I am reading the prelude leading up to, and including today’s Old Testament lectionary text from Genesis.
Genesis 6:3 “Then the LORD said, “I will not allow people to live forever; they are mortal. From now on they will live no longer than 120 years.” In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago. When the Lord saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were, all the time, he was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on the earth. He was so filled with regret that he said, “I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am heartbroken that I made any of them.” But the Lord was pleased with Noah.
This is the story of Noah. He had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Noah, had no faults and was the only good man of his time. He lived in fellowship with God, but everyone else was evil in God’s sight, and violence had spread everywhere. God looked at the world and saw that it was evil, for the people were all living evil lives. God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to the whole human race. I will destroy them completely, because the world is full of their violent deeds. Build a boat for yourself out of good timber; make rooms in it and cover it with tar inside and out. Make it 133 meters long, 22 meters wide, and thirteen meters high. Make a roof for the boat and leave a space of 44 centimeters between the roof and the sides. Build it with three decks and put a door in the side. I am going to send a flood on the earth to destroy every living being. Everything on the earth will die, but I will make a covenant with you. Go into the boat with your wife, your sons, and their wives. Take into the boat with you a male and a female of every kind of animal and of every kind of bird, in order to keep them alive. Take along all kinds of food for you, and for them.” Noah did everything that God commanded. Then the Lord then said to Noah; “Go into the boat with your whole family; I have found that you are the only one in all the world who does what is right. Take with you seven pairs of each kind of ritually clean animal, but only one pair of each kind of unclean animal. Take also seven pairs of each kind of bird. Do this so that every kind of animal and bird will be kept alive to reproduce again on the earth. Seven days from now I am going to send rain that will fall for forty days and nights, in order to destroy all the living beings that I have made.” And Noah did everything that the Lord commanded.
Noah was 600 years old when the flood came on the earth. He and his wife, and his sons and their wives, went into the boat to escape the flood. A male and a female of every kind of animal and bird, whether ritually clean or unclean, went into the boat with Noah, as God had commanded. Seven days later the flood came.
When Noah was 600 years old, on the seventeenth day of the second month (February 17) all the outlets of the vast body of water beneath the earth burst open, all the floodgates of the sky were opened, and rain fell on the earth for forty days and nights. On that same day Noah and his wife went into the boat with their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. With them went every kind of animal, domestic and wild, large and small, and every kind of bird. A male and a female of each kind of living being went into the boat with Noah, as God had commanded. Then the Lord shut the door behind Noah.
The flood continued for forty days, and the water became deep enough for the boat to float. The water became deeper, and the boat drifted on the surface. It became so deep that it covered the highest mountains; it went on rising until it was about seven meters above the tops of the mountains. Every living being on the earth died — every bird, every animal, and every person. Everything on earth that breathed, died. The Lord destroyed all living beings on the earth — human beings, animals, and birds. The only ones left were Noah and those who were with him in the boat. The water did not start going down for 150 days.
God had not forgotten Noah and all the animals with him in the boat; he caused a wind to blow, and the water started going down. The outlets of the water beneath the earth and the floodgates of the sky were closed. The rain stopped, and the water gradually went down for 150 days. On the seventeenth day, of the seventh month, (July 07), the boat came to rest on a mountain in the Ararat range. The water kept going down, and on the first day of the tenth month (October 01), the tops of the mountains appeared.
After forty days Noah opened a window and sent out a raven. It did not come back, but kept flying until the flood and waters were completely gone. Meanwhile, Noah sent out a dove to see if the water had gone down, but since the water still covered all the land, the dove did not find a place to lite. It flew back to the boat, and Noah reached out and took it in. He waited another seven days and sent out the dove again. It returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. So, Noah knew that the water had gone down. Then he waited another seven days and sent out the dove once more; this time it did not come back.
When Noah was 601 years old, on the first day of the first month, (January 01of the following year) the water was gone. Noah removed the covering of the boat, looked round, and saw that the ground was getting dry. By the 27th day of the second month (February 27) the earth was completely dry. God said to Noah, “Go out of the boat with your wife, your sons, and their wives. Take all the birds and animals out with you (that you have taken such good care of), so that they may reproduce and spread over all the earth.” So, Noah went out of the boat with his wife, his sons, and their wives. All the animals and birds went out of the boat in groups of their own kind.
Noah built an altar to the Lord; he took one of each kind of ritually clean animal and bird, and burnt them whole as a sacrifice on the altar. The odor of the sacrifice pleased the Lord, and he said to himself, “Never again will I put the earth under a curse because of what people do; because I know that from the time, they are young their thoughts are evil. Never again will I destroy all living beings, as I have done this time. As long as the world exists, there will be a time for planting and a time for harvest. There will always be cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”
God blessed Noah and his sons and said, “Have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth. All the animals, birds, and fish will live in fear of you. They are all placed under your power. Now you can eat them, as well as green plants; I give them all to you for food. The one thing you must not eat is meat with blood still in it; I forbid this because the life is in the blood. If anyone takes human life, he will be punished. I will punish with death any animal that takes a human life. Human beings were made like God, so whoever murders one of them will be killed by someone else. You must have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth.” God said to Noah and his sons, “I am now making my covenant with you and with your descendants, and with all living beings — all birds and all animals — everything that came out of the boat with you. With these words I make my covenant with you: I promise that never again, will all living beings be destroyed by a flood; never again will a flood destroy the earth. As a sign of this everlasting covenant which I am making with you, and with all living beings, I am putting my bow in the clouds. It will be the sign of my covenant with the world. Whenever I cover the sky with clouds and the rainbow appears, I will remember my promise to you, and to all the animals that a flood will never again destroy all living beings. When the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between me and all living beings on earth. That is the sign of the promise which I am making to all living beings.”
So, how is the story of Noah relevant to us today? Or is it? I found myself asking many questions as I read and re-read this text. But the reason why I wanted to delve into the Noah story for us today; is because I believe it is totally relevant to us today. Christianity as it began and spread across the Roman empire, carried the idea that all people were descendants of Noah. So, when God made this covenant to Noah and his people, he made it with us.
Chapter 6 says that at one time people were giants, warriors, who became evil; “The Lord then saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was continually evil.” And he was sorry he ever created them. Interestingly enough; John Calvin the reformer of the Protestant faith tradition, believed in the “Doctrine of Total Depravity.” He believed that human beings were evil – totally depraved, saying: “For our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle.” In chapter 8 God has a revelation after destroying everything (except Noah and his family and those 7 pairs of animals and birds) God realizes – as his heart breaks it is because he has created them with free will, and therefore imperfect, that they will choose from time to time to turn away from God’s will; but he realizes he still loves us because we are his, he created us. His heart breaks because he loves us. He needs us and we need him. So, he is going to do something new – a covenant between us, a promise that we matter to him and he will never allow his creation to be destroyed again.
The hope of this story is not in what Noah did. The hope of this story is in God’s word. God spoke and Noah listened, and Noah obeyed. The hope is in this new thing, and what God is doing.
Remember, God is not angry – God is heartbroken. God is the one speaking and creating and hoping and changing and realizing. God created and loved us, and people chose to turn away from God and God’s will, and were evil and violent, and then God destroyed, and was heartbroken, because what we do affects God. So today when we hear so many promises made, and so many promises broken – Let us remember to listen and obey and be a part of promises kept. Last year at this time we began Lent with a lock down. This year let us begin Lent remember who we are as descendants of Noah and Jesus Christ. Knowing that even when we turn away from God and break his heart, he promises to never turn away from us ever again! During the next 40 days, may we give up and let go of the fears and doubt of all that looks dark and gloomy and look for those signs of God’s everlasting covenant with us.
Let us pray: Dear merciful and Loving God; sometimes we hate it when the rain comes pouring down, with black clouds piled up high and the roof gutters overflowing. But, oh how we love it Lord when our spirits are lifted, when the rain stops, and through our windows we see a rainbow stretched across the sky. This morning we are reminded that when Noah and his family stepped out of the ark after the flood, you placed a rainbow in their sky, as a sign of your promise that, although his creation had broke his heart; his heart was broken because he loved them. Thank you, God, that you made a promise to them, and to us, that you would never again destroy your creation. Sometimes, lately Lord; we really need the reminder of your rainbow and your promise. At times we find it difficult to hold out any hope for ourselves and family members, or the world where so many bad things seem to happen. Help us when the bad news, cold winter days, and isolation get the best of us, and we feel as if you have forgotten us. Raise our spirits with this reminder of the promise of your eternal love and help us then do our part and when we have done all that we can do, help us leave the future in your tender loving hands. We don’t expect life to be trouble-free; any more than we expect a winter without snow. We know that you are faithful in your promises and will never abandon us and this gives us patience and courage to carry on, and in carrying on may our lives be a rainbow sign to others around us who may be losing hope. As we come to your table this morning; we thank you for filling our deepest hunger with the bread of life; Jesus himself. Quench our deepest thirst through the wine of his suffering, which was too deep for us to drink. During these 40 days of this Lenten season, may we draw us closer to the one who died for us, we lift up the names of those who are sick and lonely and cannot be with us, for all who are feeling hopeless and need a reminder of your eternal love and promise….In Jesus name who taught us to pray together saying:
Invocation: Merciful and loving God; we begin our journey this morning with Jesus through the season of Lent, which brings us to face some of our own weaknesses and temptations. We come together this morning to walk this journey together, seeking God’s Holy Spirit to be our guide and companion along the way. God, you know our hearts, and you know our deepest desires, fears and worries. Help us on our faith journey into a new awareness of your presence in our lives. We thank you for being with us this hour as we worship and praise you!
Benediction: God’s promises endure from generation to generation. May the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God who sent Jesus to redeem us, the God whose covenant is eternal, bless you and make you fruitful.
Rev. Jil Jennewein