I don’t know when I noticed that Noah and the ark wasn’t such a wonderful little story for kids. All of the sudden the images of happy animals in a boat gave way to a crowed boat filled with animals-animals that poop. I’m a city kid so farm life isn’t familiar to me. But I’ve been to enough animal barns at the State Fair to know that having pigs and horses and elephants and so on is going to create one big mess.
But then, that’s not the most frightening thing about this passage. God is upset over God’s creation. God saw the evil taking place and regretted even creating the earth.
So, what does God do? God sets the reset button.
The water that floods the world is in some way an undoing of the creative process we see in Genesis 1. The water comes and sweeps away all of the evil in the world. No more animals no more humans.
Except not everything has been swept away. God spares Noah, his family and all the animals. This small remnant of creation will be the seed that rebuilds the earth. Even as God judges, God also brings salvation.
The rainbow that God talks about is a reminder to God that God would never flood the earth again. God’s creation would continue to sin, continue to drift away from God. No matter, God would not destroy the earth with water again and the rainbow is God’s promise: no more hitting the reset button. God would find another way to deal with the waywardness of God’s creation. The rest of the biblical story is God finding a different way to restore God’s creation.
In 1997, a great flood hit the Red River Valley which straddles Minnesota and North Dakota. Communities up and down the Red River were threatened with flood waters. One such community was Grand Forks, North Dakota, the state’s 3rd largest city. Despite a noble effort by citizens and volunteers, the rising flood waters could not be held back. Fifty thousand people had to flee their houses as a result. As the waters filled the city, a fire started in one of the buildings downtown. Water everywhere and now a fire. As the firefighters tried to deal with the fire using boats, a photographer for the local newspaper snapped a photo that became iconic. In the midst of flood and fire, there was a rainbow. The rainbow became a sign of hope to a beleagured community, a promise that things would be better.
In the midst of pain and sorrow, God tells creation and most importantly Godself that things will be better. Hope is around the corner.