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The Flood and God's Grieved Heart
by Dan Kidd
Since our son was born, nearly two years ago, my wife and I have mused how interesting it is that the story of Noah and his ark shows up so frequently for kids; from a plush toy ark with noise-making animals, to a short, illustrated book written in poem, to a Noah-themed baby shower. It might be that the story of Noah and his ark is the most familiar story in the Bible to young children.
The reasons are plain enough. There’s tons of animals, a big boat, and a rainbow; and behind it all a story about God’s sovereign and miraculous salvation of a family who was faithful to him. But what’s missing from our son’s illustrated, poetic storybook version is the emphasis placed on the circumstances leading to the flood. Granted, these are not matters anyone would particularly enjoy discussing with children, but if we hastily read over them, we risk missing an essential witness about God and God’s relationship to humanity and creation.
In these first chapters (6-7) we find humanity had so dramatically turned from God’s intentions for them that the Lord regretted (elsewhere translated “repented of”) ever creating them. Their wickedness, their corruption, and their violence tortured God’s heart. God was grieved. Humanity was so hopelessly lost to their sinfulness that swift and absolute destruction was the only plausible solution. Note too the gravity of humanity’s sinfulness: not only did God see fit to end the human project, but our corruption had spoiled every creature on the earth along with us. Every bit of creation he had called good was turned to kindling.
Fortunately, the Lord found one family in whom he would put all hope of restoration. Noah and his family were faithful amid a world otherwise entirely ruined. So, God directed Noah to build an ark and to take with them exactly enough of every creature on the planet to continue their existence. Then the floods came and “everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out.”
There is a lot to reflect on here: the devastating consequences of our rebellion; the reality that our sinfulness grieves God’s heart; and the unearned commitment God has made to sustaining and saving us despite ourselves. Were it not for God’s invitation to Noah, the world was doomed. In the same way, were it not for God’s profound love for us, he would not have become human, suffered himself the violence that grieved him, and defeated sin and death on our behalf, and sent the Holy Spirit to regenerate us, and we would be just as hopeless. It is a testament to God’s love that he is willing to act on our behalf when we could not and would not save ourselves.
Because of Jesus, we can pray this: Father, thank you for loving us enough to save us even when we were your enemies. Holy Spirit, continue to put to death the people we would be without you and draw us nearer to you and who you’ve always intended us to be.