Is there hope after failure? Can we begin again?

The answer is yes, through the saving acts of God, especially as seen in the life of Jesus Christ. Click here to open a tab with the passages.

Hot on the heels of the Fall, the Murder in the Field, Lamech’s wild boasting of gross retaliatory violence, and now god-men turning the image of God into mere commodities to be used for lascivious ends, this passage sets up a dominant feeling: the world is drowning in the outrageous. Eden was a garden of morality, now we enter the jungle of the indecent.

The heart grows despondent – is there hope for us at all? The narrative, which we look to for hope, begins in darkness, sparkles a moment, then fades again to dark as once again a bad decision concerning a cultivated fruit leads to nakedness and a curse (9:20-28).

The writer has created a thoughtful epic with echoes of Mesopotamian myths, which would have been familiar to earlier audiences. This mythic-theological story teaches important truths about humanity and God.

We are introduced to Noah, who is not a god-man but a good man. Though he is a good man, he is not perfect – just wait and see. He relates to God by faith (Hebrews 11:7) and God relates to him with grace. The Hebrew word favor means grace. God graced Noah and Noah related to God. This is important: God graces us freely, not based on past, present, or future performance, otherwise, we could boast (Ephesians 2).

This passage is highly stylized and is often called the “De-Creation,” as the story undoes creation days. The writer organizes the narrative in a chiasmus, which is when a story is structured in a way that the events of the first half are repeated in reverse order in the second half. This is a story of doing, undoing, and a new beginning. God is a grieved but determined lover grasping for a change of heart.

Allen Ross, in Creation and Blessing (page 191), provides the structure:

A. God resolves to destroy the corrupt race (6:11-13)

B. Noah builds an ark according to God’s instructions (6:14-22)

C. The Lord commands the remnant to enter the ark (7:1-9)

D. The flood begins (7:10-16)

E. The flood prevails 150 days, and the mountains are covered (7:17-24)

F. God remembers Noah (8:1a)

E. The flood recedes 150 days, and the mountains are visible (8:1b-5)

D. The earth dries (8:6-14)

C. God commands the remnant to leave the ark (8:15-19)

B. Noah builds an altar (8:20)

A. The Lord resolves not to destroy mankind (8:21-22)

God staunchly refuses to flood again, so it looks like we are going to have to learn to live with God, one another, and ourselves. Are we really capable, though, of navigating the roiling waters within our tempestuous soul? Sure, at times, like Noah, we bob upon a horizonless blob waiting for a firm place to stand, but we often prefer the murky, boundary-less wastes of independence.

Can God save us from the breakers of self?

This is an important question and is a thread tugged at by other writers in Scripture. Remember, in chapters 1 and 2, we have the LORD giving definitions and limits. You will be land and will end at the water. Water, you end at the land. Sky, you are separate from space, land, and water. Darkness and light, you will co-exist and thus help define the other. This is not the design of a mean God, but the genius love of someone who knows that chaos keeps beauty formless and void. If we are to be authentic individuals, we cannot stay without form. We must have edges and boundaries. We must come to an end of ourselves if we are to finally find ourselves.

Later, as Paul, a former ascending rabbi, reflected on what it means to be stripped bare and pummeled by grace (like Noah), he declared an astonishing truth. In the chaos of his performative religion, racial bigotry, spitefulness, and hatred, he experienced a new day with God. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, that if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. Through the gracious work of God, the Spirit hovers over the chaos of our self, calms the roiling waters, and demands that murky land, undulating water, and sky be transformed. A new day dawns and from within the garden of our heart grows better fruits (Galatians 5:22-26) that help the world and glorify God, and God sees it and declares, “It is good.”

You see, it comes about in this way. God sent the world a true God-man, Jesus, who was truly a good man, a righteous one. This deliverer, a carpenter like Noah, saved the world through nails and wood. He, like Adam in the garden, Cain in the field, and Noah in the vineyard, also entered a Garden. He took upon his head the Crown of the Curse. However, unlike Adam, he swallowed the goblet of God’s will for his life. Unlike Cain, he rebuffed the sin that lurked. Unlike Noah, he refused the drink that diminishes pain. As two of them, he will be naked.

Through Adam, thorns broke through the ground. Through Cain, the earth gaped open and drank the blood of injustice. Through Noah, the new day darkened. At the death of Christ creation itself moaned and shuddered at the scandalous site in the sky, not the rainbow of promise but the very boy of God. Through him, the new day has broken upon us from on high (Luke 1:78).

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