Creative Promises (Genesis 6 and 9)
Last September, almost a year ago, it started raining. And it rained, and rained, and rained. While it wasn’t 40 days, it sure did feel like it. Roads washed out, houses were destroyed, and lives were forever changed by another 100-year flood.
Flood stories occur in almost every culture, and especially in ancient cultures. Rob Bell condenses it this way,
“Let’s talk about floods. Because the ancients did. The Sumerians told flood stories, the Mesopotamians told flood stories, the Babylonians told flood stories-stories about water and its destructive power to wipe out towns, cities, civilizations, and people were not unusual in the ancient world.
There were even stories about people building boats to survive these floods.
In these flood stories, all that water coming to destroy humanity was understood to be divine judgment for all of the ways people had made a mess of things. The gods are angry, it was believed, and a flood was their way of clearing the deck to start over.
So when we come to a story about a flood in the book of Genesis, it’s not that unusual. This flood story is like the other flood stories because this god is like the other gods-fed up with the depravity of humanity, unleashing divine wrath in the form of a flood.”
It’s a little troubling to me though, that here in the 6th chapter of Genesis, the earliest history of the people of faith, God is already taking a mulligan. How did we already get here to God re-creating the world?
“How did we get here?” It’s a question that was also asked by Noah, played by Russell Crow, in last springs cinematic adaptation of this epic tale. Let’s take a look…
That’s how we got here, through sin, and evil. Because the people lacked the capacity to do good in the eyes of God. In the narrative leading up to our reading this morning, God declared “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created – people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7)
So God out of sorrow wiped clean the entire earth, and our flood story sounded like most of the rest of the other flood stories. Except for that Noah part, where God spared Noah and his family because they were found righteous by God. Sadly, that still leaves more questions than answers to this story that is a little harsher than that Sunday school song where floody, floody, is rhymed with muddy, muddy.
How can the God of the flood be the God of the rainbow as well?
A rabbi reflecting on this passage writes on his blog, “The unjust suffering of the innocent still evokes moral outrage and pain in most of us. We wish and hope that the good are rewarded. But we have become uncomfortable with the reverse. We know that human evil is complex, sometimes as much a sickness as a sin. We are often unwilling to grapple with human cruelty and wrongdoing, to expect justice against those who harm others, because that justice is often very difficult to define. Even God’s justice, as in the mighty flood, makes us nervous.”
It’s beyond the questions about why bad things happen to good people, but why bad things happen to bad people as well. If God is a God of justice, love and grace, surely there is some hope to come from these waters of destruction.
And then God sets the sign of the post-flood covenant up in the clouds. The rainbow, as much a reminder for God’s own self, as it is for us, that never again will God destroy the entire earth. It’s what makes this flood story different than all the others, there is hope on the other side.
In his commentary on Genesis, Walter Brueggemann writes,
The telling of the story must focus on that surprising and irreversible turn. That is the substance of the gospel. The God who rules over us has turned toward us in a new way.
Here, not only post flood, but post resurrection, that new way is the new covenant. Jesus, himself, is the fullest understanding we have of God’s promise to never destroy the whole world again.
What God termed “very good” in creation is something God has chosen to not abandon, but chose to enter into covenant with in order that it might be redeemed, restored, and renewed. And I don’t know about you, but in this world I find that to be good news.
Alleluia and Amen.
 Rob Bell, Flood, http://robbellcom.tumblr.com/post/66199714202/what-is-the-bible-part-2-flood
 Unknown Rabbi, When Bad Things Happen to Bad People, http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Judaism/2000/11/When-Bad-Things-Happen-To-Bad-People.aspx?p=3
 Brueggemann, Genesis p.85