The Bible is a collection of books which contains a lot of weird, uncomfortable and dark stories, especially but not exclusively in the first section of the Bible known as the Old Testament. Even mature Christians find these stories difficult to understand or explain, especially when we’re asked about them by people who are sceptical of the Christian faith because they find the Bible either ridiculous or deeply disturbing at times. How do we explain the perceived contrast between God’s actions towards humankind in the Old Testament and Jesus’ actions in the New Testament? What are we to make of these awkward stories?
What if I suggested to you today that from the very beginning of the Bible, you could find and follow a common theme that runs through all of the Old Testament and right through the New, tying the two parts together and pointing us to Jesus?
In this series we’re going to follow that theme as it makes its way through some awkward places in the very first book of the Bible. Our goal is finding God’s mercy where we least expect it and following this Crimson Thread all the way to the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter.
Think about those things that children say all the time…things like “why?”, “are we there yet?” and “it’s not fair.” That last one isn’t just what children say, often adults say it too. When we look at the world around us we often think “it’s not fair.”
Injustice does something to us. Sometimes when we see evil in the world we ask ourselves if there is a God why doesn’t he put a stop to it – it’s not fair. But I wonder if we have ever really considered what that might require?Have you ever stopped to really think about what the state of the world tells us about the mercy of God.
Today we are looking at one of the oldest stories in the Bible and what relevance it has for the “it’s not fair” questions we have when we look at the state of the world.
Some Christians and theologians believe that this story of Noah and the flood is a literal story, others believe it is a metaphor. There is some evidence actually for a literal flood, some believe it took place but wasn’t a worldwide flood. We can have discussions about that and we are happy to do that, and we are very happy to be a church in which people hold those different views but what we don’t want anyone to do is to miss the point of those stories. Because to end up in endless debates about the nature of these stories is to miss the critical point.
The point of the story is to point us to God and to his character and nature. As is so often true with stories in the Bible about people, the lower tier storyline involving an individual or family points us to the overarching story of God. The lower tier story points us to the critical threads that weave their way all the way through this overarching story of God. And the story of Noah is no different. We can find that story in Genesis chapters 6 to 9.
In chapter 6 verses 5-6 we are told God is sorry that he had made them – remember this is the God who said that human beings were the pinnacle of creation. This shows us how unbelievably bad they were. God is desperate to win them back but there are consequences to their rebellion. But there was one, righteous man who God saw, Noah.
Why would God send the flood, why would he do such a thing? Well it shows us the consequences of evil and rebellion. The consequences are death: Death of hopes and dreams Death of relationships and love Death of journeying through life with God Death of life in all its fullness Death of the dream of eternity spent with God
But Noah is saved because he puts his trust in God and God is merciful to him. This lower story line of Noah points us to the overarching story of God. God offers redemption, freedom, liberation and salvation from the consequences of evil and rebellion if we choose it because of his mercy. He offers a way for restoration and the story of Noah ends with a rainbow and a promise.
In chapter 9 verse 7 God reiterates the command he gave human beings at creation – be fruitful and multiply. God goes on to promise that he will never again do something so terrible – he demonstrates mercy. And his rainbow is a promise of his covenant with Noah and his covenant – promise with us. A rainbow appears when light shines through the rain and the different colours of the spectrum are refracted (separated) by water droplets. That should remind us that even when things looks dark and gloomy, when the world feels stormy and grey, the light of God’s mercy can still be seen.
God’s new plan and new covenant will culminate in allowing his own son to be wiped out so that human beings can be redeemed. Through doing that God sets human beings free from the bondage of rebellion and sin and evil for ever. That is the mercy of God and the blood of Jesus is a reminder of the crimson thread of mercy that runs its way through God’s story.
Questions for Reflection
Do you ever look at the state of the world or your own struggles and think “it’s not fair?” When was the last time you did that?
If God were to deal with all the evil and rebellion in the world who would that start with? What about you, do you ever rebel against God?
Do you agree that the ultimate consequence of evil and rebellion is death?
Why does God choose Noah? What does the saving of Noah tell us about God and how he works?
Do you see the threads of mercy running through the story of Noah? Where do you see mercy at work?
- What does God’s covenant promise sealed with the rainbow tell us about God and his mercy?