While I am off on vacation and soaking up the sun, take a look at this post the beginning of the God’s People series. Click here to view today’s devotion.
Read Genesis 6-9
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23 NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly are like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 4: Noah. The story of Noah is exciting, devastating, tedious, complex and even horrific. It is all of those things wrapped up in a four chapters. When the name Noah is heard, most people think of him as the guy who built the really large boat, boarded animals on it two-by-two, and went on a 40 day cruise to Mount Ararat. During the cruise he and his family sat around a lantern lit room, with the smells and sounds of animals joining in their family Christian camp song sing-a-long. Then add in the images of ravens, doves, an olive branch and, finally, dry ground.
Upon land, we remember that Noah was so stoked to be on ground again that he built an awesome altar, upon which he celebrated with his animal and fowl friends from the boat by slitting their throats, draining their blood down the altar and burning their flesh. This scent of burnt flesh and blood, of course, was to God what Calvin Klein’s Eternity for Men is to me: intoxicating. God loved it so much, that from that time forward God realized he had made an “oopsy”, and put a rainbow in the sky as a sign that he would never, ever flood the earth again.
Okay, so that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it does pretty accurately sum up the story of Noah as most people recall hearing it in Sunday School. Granted, the Sunday School version is missing all of the blood and sarcasm; however, that is the gist of the story as it is commonly remembered. Yet, if you took the time to read Genesis 6-9, I am sure you came across elements you didn’t even know existed in there.
Focusing on Noah as a character, the Bible says that Noah found favor with God. God was so upset with how corrupt humanity had become that God was desiring to destroy all of Creation. The flood, in essence, are the tears of God pouring down over a people who are so wicked they could care less. What were the people’s sin? The only thing that is mentioned is their violence.
We can only guess why Noah was so favored by God as the Bible does not give us any clue. One thing is for sure, Noah was not favored by God for being perfect. In one of the more obscure passages in the Bible, we find out that Noah had a bit of a drinking problem and, when he passed out in a drunken stupor, one of his sons saw Noah’s nakedness.
There has been much scholarly debate as to what was meant by Ham “seeing his father’s nakedness.” The story is written in a way that leads one to take it literally, that Ham literally saw his father naked. But without getting into narrative, theological, or cultural debates, we can focus on Noah’s reaction to that instead.
When Noah finds out that Ham has seen him naked, he curses Ham’s son, Canaan. What an odd thing to do. Why would Noah curse his grandson over the fact that the boy’s father saw him naked? What’s more, whose fault is that anyway? Was it Ham who got his father drunk? Was it Ham who unclothed him and laid him spralled out naked on the ground? Not according to the story! Yet, Noah forces Ham to bear the guilt of his own shame!
Despite all of this, Noah is still remembered as being favored by God. No doubt, Noah was favored by God, even if he didn’t always live up to God’s standard. Then again, which one of us live up to God’s standard? Which one of us always gets things right? If we are honest, we know that none of us do; yet, God favors us.
Let us learn from Noah. Let us learn what it means to be faithful, even when God seems to be asking for the outrageous and/or the impossible. Let us learn to be obedient and to do as God has asked us to do. Let us learn to take responsibility for our own sins and repent of them. Let us learn to hold ourselves accountable, rather than scapegoating others in order to sheepishly hide ourselves away from the blame. Let us, indeed, learn from Noah, who is but one person among God’s people.
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY
“Noah was a brave man to sail in a wooden boat with two termites.” – Unknown J
“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” – Howard Ruff
Lord, help me to not only read the Bible, but see myself in it. Help me to follow the examples of faith and learn from the examples of weakness and sin. Amen.
Read Genesis 6:11-22
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27-28 NRSV)
Recently, I sat down and watch the film Noah with my wife. The film, starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson, is inspired by and loosely based off of the account of Noah in Genesis 5-10. I say loosely, because the film is artistic in it’s approach. It takes five chapters, what could amount to 30 minutes (an hour tops) and builds out of that source material a film that is two and a half hours long. It includes all of the characters from the Biblical narrative and it includes new characters. Most importantly, it pays close attention to the obscure stories within the larger story of Noah, and it interprets those stories in light of the larger one. While many Christian critics said the film disregarded the Bible, I find that the film actually paid the Biblical text much more attention than other adaptations. With that said, it did so unconventionally.
In the film, the “bad guy” is a man by the name of Tubal-Cain. To make a long story short, he is a descendant of Cain (as in Cain and Abel), whereas, Noah is a descendant of Seth who was born after Abel was murdered and Cain was banished. Tubal-Cain is a power-hungry person, as are all (or most) of the people who descend from Cain. Noah, and his family, are not. They are peaceful, vegetarian, and living in harmony with the earth. In one scene, after having helped Tubal-Cain recover from injuries, one of Noah’s sons happens to see Tubal-Cain eating meat and he tries to stop him. “The beasts are precious,” he protested. Tubal responded, “The beasts are for us. The Creator needed to take dominion over it and subdue it. He created us. This is our world, Ham. Seize it.”
As I was watching this scene, it occurred to me that that both sides are founded by the same story. Both Noah and Tubal-Cain have grown up knowing and living by the same story. In the beginning, God created everything, including humans. God created humans in God’s own image, and God put humans in charge of creation by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). What separated Noah from Tubal-Cain (according to this film, not necessarily according to the Bible) is that Noah understood that the command to take dominion and subdue, meant to tame and care for, as opposed consume and destroy.
In fact, when you read the Scriptures carefully, it seems that God created human beings and placed them “in charge” of all that God created. To be a ruler with dominion is to have a position of great responsibility and power. God gave humans that power so that we would care for a creation that God loves, for a creation that God says is “good.” Why would God want humans to consume and destroy creation? Why would God create animals for people to abuse and torture them? Why would God create plant-life for humans to slash and burn?
I am not suggesting that humans shouldn’t eat meat (though I choose to abstain), nor am I suggesting that people shouldn’t farm or utilize natural resources; however, I am suggesting that God created us to be caretakers of creation and that, “have dominion and subdue” does not equal “consume and destroy.” We are all called to be caretakers and lovers of God’s creation. We are all called to be as responsible as possible in how we utilize resources. We all need to eat and live, and things die (both plants and animals) as a result of that need; however, that does not give us free reign to consume and destroy at will. It’s time, as children of the Creator, that we hold each other accountable to being better stewards of creation. It’s not just “what’s right”, but it’s also what we were created for.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” – David Orr
Lord, help reconnect me with my purpose as a caretaker for all of your creation, including the people you have placed in my life. Amen.
Read Genesis 6-8
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15b, New Living Translation)
This past week the famous comedian, satirist, and political commentator Bill Maher sparked some controversy when he gave his opinion of the upcoming epic film Noah, starring Russell Crowe. Maher, who is a self-described agnostic, went on to critique the story of Noah in the Bible. “Hey God, you know there’s a problem when you star in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with the bigger anger problems. He also referred to the God found in the Noah story as a “psychotic, mass murderer” and a “baby killer”, referring to the fact that God flooded the world in order to kill every living thing.
On the flip side, Christians have also complained about the film for not being 100% true to the Biblical account. Pastor Rick Warren called it a waste of money because if one wants to know the story, one should read the Bible and not view a film that is adding stuff to the story that isn’t there. Other Christians, said that the film was too dark. Evidently, they don’t see the story of God killing every man, woman, child, animal, plant, and micro-organism as being “dark”).
Bill Maher does have a point that the story of Noah, the story of an angry and disheartened God who decides to kill every living thing, a part from every thing, is horrific. It is hard to justify that kind of a story. Surely, not all of creation deserved such a flood. Even if, as the Bible portrays, ALL grown adult people were wicked (that alone is hard enough to swallow), what about the innocent babies, the animals, the plants? Were they deserving of such a fate? Christians should not be flippant about Maher’s argument simply because of the way he presented it or because it challenges their understanding.
The objecting Christians do have a point too. This upcoming film, Noah, will not be 100% accurate in its portrayal of the Biblical account. No movie is ever 100% accurate in any portrayal of a book. Period. Movies add things, they take things away, and they go in different directions in order to add dramatic effect for the film. Films never translate the same way as books. And it is important for us to not replace reading the Bible with watching film versions of the stories. Christians who are concerned about this should be. We all should be!
With all of that said, I am encouraging people of all persuasions to go see the film. If you are a person of faith (within any religion), go see the film. If you are an agnostic, go see the film. If you are atheist, go see the film. First, I think it is important that we support movies that are based on something that transcends the shallow worldview of Hollywood. Second, the more films that are made about the stories in the Bible, the more it will spark an interest in the Bible itself. Believe it or not, many people today haven’t picked a Bible up in their lives and so many of these stories are unfamiliar. Such films can and will spark the interest.
Finally, and this is the most important of my points, it is good and healthy for people to engage each other over these stories. Whether you believe the Flood story literally, or metaphorically, or if you find it abhorrent and you don’t believe it at all, such films will spark conversation and discussion, just as Noah has. I may not agree with everything Bill Maher said, and I certainly don’t appreciate the way he said it, but I do appreciate that the discussion is being had. As people of faith, we should not fear engaging people in healthy and respectful dialog. So, go and see this movie if you can. Wrestle with it and engage others in conversation about it. If you are unable to, then simply read it in the Bible, wrestle with it and enter into the discussion that way! Either way, challenge yourself to engage the story, to engage yourself in relation to the story, and to engage others.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I take things in better when I’m allowed to talk, and respond, and engage and move around a bit.” – Daniel Radcliffe
Lord, stir in me a desire to study the Bible, to wrestle with it, and to be willing to engage others with it in ways relevant to them. Amen.
Read Psalm 100
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8, NRSV)
Most, if not all, of us can sift through the years gone by and remember a time when we were children. Though it may be a while ago, and though certain memories might be fuzzy, we can with a little effort remember what it was like to be a child. What it was like to look at the world through innocent eyes, what it was like to rely on our parents, what it was like to have a mind like a sponge, soaking in all of our surroundings and feeding off of that knowledge with youthful energy and passion.
Of course, I am sure if we can remember those things, I am also pretty certain we can remember the not so positive things as well. I am sure that, with a little effort, we can remember being told that “children are to be seen and not heard.” I am sure we can remember being scolded for doing this or doing that, without fully understanding why we were getting scolded for behaving no differently than the adults do. I am sure we can remember people talking down to us as if we were too young to understand, or dismissing our thoughts and ideas as if they didn’t count because of our age.
On the flip side, I have seen the opposite occur too. I have seen people who are considered “older” passed off as being irrelevant. I have seen people’s ideas invalidated simply because “they don’t meet up with the times.” I have seen traditions scoffed at because they are “old” or “archaic”. We all can think to a time when we, or people we know, have made judgments against people because of their age.
Why is it that we are so focused on age? Why is it that a child is passed off as too naive to know what God is calling him or her to do? Why is it that an elderly person is invalidated because they are considered too old to know what is relevant for today’s generations? Does God discriminate based on age? Does God refuse to speak to and through people based on their age or their experience?
In Genesis, Noah was somewhere between 500 and 600 years old when God told him to build an Ark…he was 600 years old when the floods came (Genesis 7:6). God called Abraham to be the ancestor of many nations at the ripe age of 99 (Genesis 17:1). In Jeremiah, God called the prophet to speak despite Jeremiah judging himself to be too young (Jeremiah 1:6). The author of the first letter to Timothy, instructs the young minister to not let anyone think less of him because he is young, but to “be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT).
In reality, we serve an ageless God who is not limited by the limitations we place on ourselves and on others. God is neither young nor old; rather, God IS. With that said, God IS calling us, whether young or old, to live in a way that values others. God IS calling us, whether young or old, to live in a way that is humble. God IS calling us to recognize that there are no limitations in God, that all things are possible. God IS calling all of us to knock down our walls of segregation and discrimination and to open ourselves to God’s spirit working in, through and in spite of all of us. Today’s challenge is to answer that call to see God working in and through all people…including yourself.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“God is not limited by the limitations we place on ourselves and others.”
Lord, I know that you are not a God of limitations, but of eternal possibility. Remove my biases against myself and others. Use me in a way that promotes growth and brings hope, healing and wholeness to those in need of it. Amen.