Formations 02.06.2022: The Real Story of Noah’s Ark

Genesis 6:5-7, 11-22

During their early years, whenever my kids needed a doctor’s visit, their favorite exam room was the Noah’s Ark room. Its focal wall boasted a beautiful mural of the delightful image many of us bring to mind when we think of that story: the grandparent-like figures of Noah and his wife standing at the bow of a chubby brown boat bursting with pairs of cute animals. Even more animal pairs were pictured in a long, charming line waiting to get onboard. As we waited for the doctor, I would pass the time with my girls by asking them to find different animals.

It’s a quaint image—that of the friendly boat with the obedient, wide-eyed animals making their way up the ramp. We tell the story that way because it helps children learn about a loving God. But the image that is closer to reality is far from quaint. Anyone who has endured the devastating rains of a hurricane knows the potential for death and destruction when relentless torrents of water fall from the sky. And according to the Bible story, this flood wasn’t limited to one area of one country. The entire world was flooded by God’s decision to “blot out from the earth” all people and creatures (Gen 6:7).

Outside the ark Noah built, humans and creatures drowned in the filthy water that was contaminated by biological waste, saturated food, and other debris. Trees bent and broke, human structures collapsed, loved ones were separated, and animals were swept away.

Inside the ark Noah built, the few humans struggled to survive as weeks went by. They were hungry, dirty, thirsty, cold, and maybe sick or at least seasick. They toiled day after day to keep the animal pairs fed and watered, to clean up their waste, to stop them from preying on each other. They tried to hold on to hope when all hope seemed lost.

Truly, they must have felt like the rain would never stop. This is no cute, quaint picture from a children’s story. This is the hard reality of life on earth, marred by human sin and violence. This tale involves a sad and regretful God: “And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (v. 6). It’s important to read this story for what it is—not a charming children’s fable but a devastating tragedy. And it’s important to understand the moral of the tragedy: “I will establish my covenant with you” (v. 18).

God made the world and called it good (Genesis 1). When the world devolved into something dangerous and debilitating, God wiped it clean. But God insisted on saving a remnant. Something about creation was still good, and God let it live and renewed it. Our world today probably doesn’t look that different from the way it looked when God chose to start over all those years ago. But the covenant stands, and we are part of it. In our daily lives, may we make godly choices that encourage life and renewal.

Discussion

• What are your earliest memories of the story of Noah’s ark?
• When did you begin to understand the true devastation of a flooded earth? What do you think it was actually like both inside and outside the ark?
• How have you been able to reconcile God’s destructive nature in this story with the loving nature of God that we know through Jesus Christ?
• What does it mean to you to read that God was “sorry” and “grieved” (v. 6)?
• How does it feel to know that you are part of the covenant God made with Noah and renewed through Christ?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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