Thursday, March 13, 2014

Noah - Before the Flood


I've been seeing a lot about the new Noah movie. The debate seems to center on whether the movie will be about the “real” Noah, or be a cinematic slap in the face to those of faith (since Noah appeals to Jewish, Muslim and Christian alike).

The studio claims they are largely accurate to the Bible, but to be safe have made a disclaimer pointing people to the pages of Genesis for the actual account. Evangelicals, meanwhile, are saying the movie will be blasphemous and see any 'disclaimer' from the studio to be shrewd marketing. Answers In Genesis has its own video about the REAL Noah, complete with a hefty price tag.

I don't want to take sides in this because I think we need to remember a few things: First, the director, Darren Aronofsky, is a self-proclaimed atheist. The studio makes no effort to claim they are doing this movie for evangelical reasons, though they are pointing people to the book of Genesis on their web site. I also understand that they have a Christian on staff who gave feedback on the script. But they are not coming out saying that their movie is the REAL NOAH, just an interpretation of the events mentioned in a couple chapters in Genesis.

Then there's the evangelicals. Ken Ham's AiG along with Living Waters' Ray Comfort seem to have no problem capitalizing on the movie's marketing to sell videos about the true Noah. And while they are trying to teach the truth from scripture, there's something kind of cloying about their tactic. I don't know that they've seen the final cut of the movie, yet they have condemned it. And they condemn the director, too, impugning his effort on the basis of his atheism. And with broad strokes dipped in that paint, they slather the movie with nothing but hate and righteous disdain, as if they're taking up an offense for God.

I don't think God needs their outrage to defend His account of Noah. And I think we might be wise to applaud the world's interest in Noah and the story of the Great Flood. We should point out where they get the story right and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of Darren, Russell Crowe and others on that movie to realize their need for an ark—Jesus Christ!

Taking a look at the criticisms, though, I wonder if they're even warranted. It's a pretty bold statement to claim that you know the REAL Noah. Who, exactly, was the Biblical Noah? What does the Bible actually say? What's the deal with the world before the Great Flood?

We know his father was Lamech, the son of Methuselah. We learn that Methuselah was the son of Enoch, who belongs to an exclusive group who never died. The Bible records that Enoch “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24). Another was Elijah who was taken up by angels in chariots of fire.

The only thing remarkable mentioned about Methuselah, however, was the fact that he lived longer than anyone else … ever! He lived 969 years, beating out Adam by 39 years. As far as his righteousness, we know nothing.

Lamech, Noah's father holds no distinction of holy living, either. Lamech was 182 years old when he fathered Noah. At that time, he prophesied, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” Taking just those few verses about Methuselah and Lamech, I can't make a good call on the content of their character. Neither of them show up in Hebrews' Hall of Faith (Hebrews 13).

We also read in Genesis 6:5 that the “Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Did that include Methuselah and Lamech? Did it include Noah's many brothers and sisters? His children, too?

Yes!

It includes all of us on a spiritual level. The question is, did they recognize this and turn to God for His grace?

What about Noah? Genesis 6:8-9 tells us “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord … Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”

Then we read the story of Noah obeying God, building the ark and then entering in. He stayed in the ark, a dark, wooden tomb, essentially, for a full year. During that time, he and his family had to shovel poop, cook food, and feel the constant rocking and creaking of the ark as it rolled on waves they couldn't see.

The Bible then accounts for Noah checking for a sign that the world could accept people and animals again by sending out birds. Finally, the ark hits dry ground and the waters recede. God opens the door and Noah and his family and all the animals leave the ark. God makes a covenant with Noah and his family to never destroy all life with a flood again.

Then, Noah starts to farm and gets drunk. His son Ham sees his father drunk and naked, goes and tells his brothers, who don't find it amusing, and then gets cursed by Noah for his disrespect toward his father.

That, in a nutshell, is what we know about Noah from Genesis. We learn in Hebrews that he was a preacher of righteousness while he was building the ark for 120 years.

Other than those things, we know nothing about his struggles during those 120 years. We don't know how he got along with his brothers, sisters, father, grandfather, cousins, and other relations. We don't know if he fought in wars that raged. We do know that there were Nephilim, great warriors and warlords. We know that Cain's descendants, such as Tubal-Cain who formed tools (weapons?) of bronze and iron.

We know that people before the flood lived for centuries. Think about that. How much evil is limited because of our aging bodies and death. The lecherous predator can only go on for so long before health and death stop him. Likewise, a wicked politician, business man or other emissary from the halls of worldly power are kept in check by death, limiting their influence. Our harsh words, bitter thoughts and rampant selfishness are all worn down into silence by sickness and death.

But in Noah's world, men had scores of children and everyone lived so long to believe they were immortal. Perhaps Adam thought the curse was not as bad as he thought. Maybe he believed he would go on living. But they continued with dark hearts that reviled God and intellects that devised any manner of oppression on others. Genesis 6:4c: “Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Warriors and kings, building empires and crushing those who don't bow down.

It's reasonable to believe that Noah was surrounded by a world of ravaging lusts and bloodthirsty government. The evil was so bad that God saw it as being the “end of all flesh.”

That was the world of Noah. A world that deserved God's judgment for its wickedness. Only Noah turned to God. Only he was considered righteous.

Now, speculating, I wouldn't be surprised if Noah had his doubts. Moses had doubts. Elijah had doubts. David fell to sin. Peter denied Christ! Why wouldn't we expect Noah to face a struggle with his faith?

I won't be bothered if the movie shows that. It might be more accurate than trying to portray a Noah that never sinned. Because that's not what happened. Noah was only righteous on the basis of his faith, not his works. He was found blameless because he knew God was the judge and deliverer. He was saved only because he had the faith to enter the ark, which was a type of Christ. That's how it was back then, and that's how it is today.

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