A modern look at Noah and the Rainbow
This is taken from a recent sermon about a possible meaning for the story of Noah today.
Genesis 8. 15- 9.17
Mark 4. 1-20
While I was thinking about today’s OT reading about the Flood I remembered a song many years ago on the Muppet Show sung by Kermit the Frog..
The Rainbow Connection..
“Why are there so many songs about rainbows?”
Actually I could only remember two songs about rainbows, Kermit’s song and Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz “Somewhere over the rainbow”. But the Rainbow Connection is what the Noah Flood story is about.
Quests for evidence of Noah’s Ark
I was watching a TV program last year about people trying to prove evidence that they had found the final resting place of Noah’s ark and that rock formations were part of the Arks fossilised remains. I must admit that I laughed a little. I laughed because this seemed to me to be misguided attempt to prove the Ark existed. I think it mistakes the nature of the story and how the story may have arisen. The biblical story is similar to other ancient stories in the Middle East, a shared story of terrible disaster and rescue of a hero and his family. I think it is case of taking an old traditional story and reshaping it in the faith of Israel, making it a story about the Just and Good God of Israel and the cosmos.
We also have to see this story in relation to the whole history of the earth and the scientific evidence of cataclysmic events of the earth over millions of years. Several times in earth history there has been mass extinctions of nearly all life on earth followed by the repopulation of new ecosystems with new species and forms of life long before the final advent of the evolution of human beings.
Three Major themes in the Noah narrative
1.-The cause of the great flood
The story may be compared to the older pagan stories in which the gods are merely irritated by humanity. In the Noah story it is the sin of humanity that has corrupted the whole of creation. God regrets He even made creation and humanity and wants to start creation all over again. But God also still loves creation and does not want to destroy things utterly and wants some of creation to be spared to start again.
2- The good man who acts as a saviour
God looks for and finds a man and his family who can be the means of saving some of creation. God looks for the man who can be saviour of creation. He finds this in Noah. In this sense Noah is a type of Christ-like figure, a saviour of creation.
We may observe from this the fact too that God still wants people who will care for creation and try and rescue it from human corruption and misuse today. God wants lovers of creation and not just their own lives.
2. The Divine Promise never to repeat the flood
And so we come to today’s reading. It is the aftermath of the great flood. After Noah and the creatures have left the ark, able to walk again on dry land. Human beings are given recognition of their authority over things and able to make laws themselves and judge each other. This is a recognition of societies that we indeed make laws for ourselves and the power we seem to have in shaping the world. Of course these powers can be corrupted and often are.
But what I really want to focus on is the great Rainbow Promise. God will never send such a devastation again. But why does God make that promise? Does God expect things to be permanently better? Not so. It is despite the fact that things will still go wrong that God will patiently put up with the evil in the world in order that more people may be born and have a chance to know Him and fulfil His purposes in their lives. St Paul was later to write God waits for the revealing of the Children of God, those who will fulfil the purpose of lovers of God, other people and creation. God’s will is the continued coming to life of those we will live in His purpose and fulfil all the goodness for which they have been created.
Noah’s later failure
We find later that Noah is not so perfect after all and gets drunk on wine that he makes for himself and falls asleep naked in front of his family. It will be one of many occasions in the bible when the hero does great things but then shows he is far from perfect and lets God down. The new start is still followed by failure. The hero is fallible unlike the truest Saviour of all who is not.
In this sense we may see ourselves as people for whom God has shown His patience and His love. God is patient so that we may come to be born and capable of knowing that love and purpose for our lives and for the world. We may know ourselves as both called by God but fallible in many ways.
So we could consider also today Jesus’ parable of the Sower. Christ comes with the gift of God’s Word and purpose and many fail to respond or only partly respond. We may know ourselves to be those who have responded to the Word given to us, but we may allow the weeds of materialism and selfish concern to overpower us and fail to grown as we should.
However, although we are fallible and often unfruitful and mistaken in what we do we are still loved. Despite our failure we and are still called to be the means by which others may find that love too.
We may be good or bad in how we are but God patiently keeps calling. God keeps waiting for our willing response, giving us new opportunities to make amends and grow as He would have us be.
But what about “The Rainbow Connection”?
Whenever we see a rainbow we just accept it as a natural event when rain and sunshine are present at the same time. We don’t think about the rainbow as special creation by God for humanity to see. Rainbows will have occurred billions of years before human beings walked the earth.
But the writer of Genesis however would still want us to look at the rainbow and see it as a reminder God’s faithful and patient love.
A love that endues despite evil and corruption affecting the world each day
A love from God that continually waits for His Children to find Him and know Him and love Him
A love that waits for us to grown into what we are intended to be and does not give up on us.
Let us recall that despite the evils of the world God is patient
We recall also our own individual past, where we have excelled and we have failed.
He comes again to summon us in His Word to a new and renewed life-
(Hymn quote “Will you come and follow me..”)