How do you read the Bible?
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
7 And you,<sup class="footnote" style="font-size: 0.625em; line-height: normal; position: relative; vertical-align: text-top; top: auto; display: inline;" data-fn="#fen-ESV-213a" data-link="[a]”>[a] be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” – Genesis 9:1-17
We’ve been watching The Chosen, a made-for-TV drama about the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. I find it compelling and faithful to the teachings of Jesus. I am deeply moved by the very real human context into which Jesus is placed via the screenwriters. They have done an excellent job.
I realize there is a good bit of non-scriptural background and context in the presentation. And I’m aware that some don’t feel it appropriate to extrapolate the things we know of Jesus’ time and place into the accounts of the gospels. But none of the imaginations and fictional filler detracts from the identity of Jesus as the Son of God who came to seek and save the lost.
I say all this because there are various approaches to Scripture that will lead us one way or another in our understanding of the Bible and of events such as Noah and the ark. Is the Bible primarily a rule book, designed to give people principles and laws by which to live successfully? Certainly there are those things in Scripture. But I take seriously that the purpose of the Bible is expressed in John 20:31, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The story of Noah provides a lens for us to consider just how this is so. It shows our need for salvation (the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. – Genesis 8:21). It shows God’s good will and grace toward man and the world he has made (I will never again curse the ground… – Genesis 8:21). It reveals how appropriate it is for us to worship God, and that he delights in our worship and prayers (Genesis 8:20). And now it lays out the way we live in light of God’s deliverance.
In these verses from Genesis 9 we see a command (following God’s rescue of Noah), and promise of continuing love. Then we see a sign given us (the rainbow) to remind us of God’s promise. Then comes a further allowance for our freedom (eating meat, for example), and then the mention of his covenant.
Lutheran teaching highlights Law and Gospel as the lens through which we read the Bible. To that we can also add Covenant and Kingdom. Law and Gospel establishes God’s covenant with us. We’ve sinned (Law). And God has redeemed and saved (Gospel). Now we live under Christ in his kingdom (Luther’s Small Catechism, 2nd Article of the Creed). We now live as representatives of God in the world. We live in the gracious rule and reign of Jesus, under his grace and promises, and in ways that bring him honor and glory.
Let me get real about all this. Noah’s story is a warning to us not to abandon God’s ways lest we fall under his judgment and wrath. It is also a story of faithfulness over the long-haul of life – in times of storm or calm. We have been redeemed. That means something. It should shape our thoughts and lives, our worship and our prayers.
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