The story of Noah begins the second cycle of the Genesis narrative (Brueggemann). In the first cycle, we see the creation of the world followed by rebellion—first through Adam and Eve, then by Cain, and finally Lamech (4:19ff). In the second cycle, we see rebellion (6:5ff) followed by re-creation, as God destroys the world in order to begin again with Noah and his family. In the first cycle, rebellion breaks out in paradise. In the second, Noah walks faithfully with God in the midst of a rebellious world. When you take the two sections together we see man at his best and worst.
But we also learn a lot about God. We learn about His goodness in creating the world. We learn about His love by making man to image Him and then blessing him with a world full of wonderful things. We also see His heart broken when man attempts to live apart from Him. But for all of that, God refuses to give up His creation.
Despite this, man is giving up on God. We’re told “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become upon the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (6:5). Notice the superlatives in the text: “every,” “only,” and “all.” It’s not just that man is living away from God—that’s all he thinks of! His heart is set on rebellion.
Moses shifts to show us what’s in God’s heart in response to this. “The Lord regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled” (6:6). This is not what God created man for! He made man to share life with Him—to enjoy His gifts and blessings and to bear His image before the world. This is the heartache every parent knows when their child has settled in on a path of destruction. And so it is with our Father who is deeply wounded over His children’s unraveling.
What follows is the familiar account of the flood as heaven weeps for forty days. The earth is “filled with violence” (v. 13), so God puts an end to a world full of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in order to start all over. The flood is about God’s judgment. Judgment is always bad news for the wicked but good news for the righteous. Such a person is Noah. He “walked faithfully with God” (v. 9).
When the flood is over, Noah and his family come out of the ark, build an altar, and offer a sacrifice to God. He is pleased with it and we have a concluding heart statement, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (8:21). The rainbow becomes a sign of this covenant (9:8-17). It’s important to note that nothing about man has changed to bring this about—it is God who has changed. He has been suffering because of sin, but the rainbow is to remind us that He will now suffer for sin in order to mercy and grace. Salvation flows from a heart that is bruised and broken by man’s rebellion but nonetheless refuses to give up on him.
Think about that the next time God shows His colors in the sky.