Some evangelicals are up in arms (what else is new?) about the new Noah movie with Russell Crowe and the Nephilim rock people because (surprise surprise) it’s not accurate to the biblical text. So, some are calling for a boycott (again, what else is new?). Shhh… don’t tell them that Jesus didn’t invent the chair like Jim Caviziel’s portrayal in “The Passion of the Christ.”
Yet, what I find more problematic than Hollywood taking artistic liberties with the account of Noah is that the church often gets its message flat out wrong. From our sermons and our Sunday School lessons you might think that Noah’s Ark was a story about family values and how Noah “got his family in the ark,” or a story about how we should be sweet to our pets. Neither of these is the point of the text; yet, they are taught in conservative churches that trumpet the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible.
No, Noah’s ark is not a sweet kid’s tale about cuddly animals, nor is it a manual on how to be a better dad. Noah’s ark is a horror story where God drowns humanity and the animal kingdom in the flood of his wrath against human sin. What we miss with the cute Fisher Price toys and the veggie tale-ish VBS lessons is that there were dead bodies floating in the water and the air was filled with the stench of rotting flesh.
God had created the world good, but human rebellion became so unbridled that God poured out His judgment in a global flood. But, not only does this story show the wrath of God, it also shows his rescuing mercy. Through the judgment of the flood, God saves one man – not because he is sinless (this is clear by the end of his life in Gen 9) – because of his faith (Heb 11:7). This is the story of a loving God who makes all things new out of judgment. The Noah story is the story of the world in miniature.
In the account of Noah’s ark, God judges the wicked world with water. Water is often the sign of God’s judgment of human sin. From the flood, to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, to the storm and the fish that swallowed the runaway prophet, to Jesus’ statement that his cross is a baptism (Mk 10:38), water is pictured as judgment throughout the Bible. 1 Peter 3 tells the church that Baptism is the anti-type of the flood. It pictures the fact that in Christ we have been drowned in the wrath of God at Golgotha and raised to walk in newness of life. That is the message of Noah’s ark. Judgment will come, but there is a true and better “Ark” that will drown under the wrath of God outside the gates of Jerusalem gasping hour after hour after hour for one last breath. And three days later the Ark of our Salvation will stand up and walk out of the grave, conquering death because the message of Noah holds true that “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3).
This is the story of a God who judges and saves. That’s why Noah was also a preacher (2 Pet. 2:5). There was a global judgment coming, and he was the only one with the message of salvation, so he had to share it. We are given the same task. Jesus tells us that the final judgment will be just like the days of Noah. People will be just living life. They will be seemingly normal people – and many of them seemingly “good” people – who are eating, drinking, marrying, climbing corporate ladders, starting families, and then when they least expect it – BAM! – global judgment will wipe away every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet who is outside of Christ – the ark of our salvation!
Since we know that is coming, it is our task to lovingly warn the world through the gospel. Let’s not see this Noah movie as an opportunity to gripe, criticize, or complain. Let’s see it as an opportunity to engage. Let’s engage our neighbors who see the movie. Let’s engage our children as they play with the Fisher Price Noah who looks like Santa Claus. With tears in our eyes over the coming judgment and joy in our hearts over salvation in Christ, let’s tell them what the story is really about, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!” Perhaps they might just seek rescue in the Ark that has already drowned in God’s wrath and come out safely on the other side.