Blue Like Jazz!

10 03 2012

Okay…after watching this trailer, I’m officially excited about Donald Miller’s new movie:

Here’s hoping it comes to Shreveport!

The Lunatic Gospel: Genesis 7-9

5 08 2009

Click here to read the text of Genesis 7-9.

wood carving, from

wood carving, from

My Sunday School teachers had turned Bible narrative into children’s fables. They talked about Noah and the ark because the story had animals in it. They failed to mention that this was when God massacred all of humanity.

It took me a while to realize that these stories, while often used with children, are not at all children’s stories. I think the devil has tricked us into thinking so much of biblical theology is a story fit for kids. How did we come to think the story of Noah’s ark is appropriate for children? Can you imagine a children’s book about Noah’s ark complete with paintings of people gasping in gallons of water, mothers grasping their children while their bodies go flying down white-rapid rivers, the children’s tiny heads being bashed against rocks or hung up in fallen trees? I don’t think a children’s book like that would sell many copies.

– Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Trying to read these chapters straight through is incredibly confusing, mainly because it seems to be two separate stories squashed together into one at random points. Here is one link that seeks to separate them out.

“Forty days and forty nights” is such a recognizable theme of this story, and in fact, God warns Noah that the rain will last for forty days and forty nights.  However, there is this other theme of “150 days” that’s not nearly as famous.  We tend to forget how long it took for the water to recede.  And Noah must have been at his wit’s end, since God had never specified what would happen after 40 days.  Here’s what I think he must have been thinking (because I assure you, if it were me in that ark, I would be keeping track of days VIGILANTLY)

Day 39: This rain is showing no sign of stopping. I thought God said it would be stopping tomorrow. I just can’t see how that’s ever going to happen.
Day 40: Well, hallelujah! He did what he said he was going to! I can’t wait to get out of this zoo!
Day 41: I figure if we send out this raven, he’ll find the dry land and we can follow him.
Day 47 (ish): Ok, every day that I send out this bird, he keeps coming back to me. What’s that about? When are we going to be able to get out of the ark?
Day 50: I obeyed God. I was considered a righteous man. What did I do to deserve this? How long will we be here?

Edward Hicks' depiction of the text

Edward Hicks' depiction of the text

Day 55: God, why aren’t you talking to me? You gave me all these specific instructions at the beginning: how big to build the ark, what to build it out of, what to do with it. But I just don’t know what I’m supposed to even be doing here.
Day 65: I’m starting to forget what dry land would even look like.
Day 70: Maybe the raven’s just stupid. He keeps flying in circles. Here, let’s try this dove–he’s always seemed a little more intelligent bird tome.
Day 71: Okay, the dove’s back. What now?
Day 75: We’ve been aboard this ark for SEVENTY-FIVE DAYS. What gives, God? What do you want us to do now?
Day 77: Let’s send out the dove again.
Day 78: Dove’s still not back. I’m hoping that’s a good sign.
Day 79: The dove returned with an olive branch this morning! There’s got to be land around somewhere. Maybe we’ll hit it eventually.
Day 85: Still no sign of land. Tomorrow I’m sending out the dove again.
Day 90: Dove’s still not back. It’s been three days. Either he died, or he found dry land. I’m hoping it’s the latter.
Day 100: I can’t keep sending out birds like this. It’s not like they’re taking us to the land, if it’s even out there. God, I pray that you would take us to the dry land.
Day 110: Everyone is tired and cranky. Our clothes are soaked from day to day, and they’re falling apart.  We’re running out of food, my son has scurvy, and frankly, if I run into the hippopotamus on the stairs one more time, I think I might just jump off this boat.
Day 115: Is this God whom I obeyed even a good God? He killed everyone I knew, except my family. What if he just left us on this ark to die, too? I risked everything for him, but what has he done for us? Is it really even better to be alive at this point?

Steve Carrell portrays a modern-day Noah in "Evan Almighty"

Steve Carrell portrays a modern-day Noah in "Evan Almighty"

And on and on and on. God speaks to Noah a lot at the beginning: he gives him instructions, makes promises, reassures him of his innocence, and looks out for his family.

God speaks to Noah a lot at the end: he responds to Noah’s righteousness, gives him instructions, makes promises (and a covenant), and establishes a sign for the covenant.

But in the middle—during the flood, the darkest point of this story–God seems silent. Noah is left on his own to deal with the animals, to make decisions about what he thinks is best. It’s a huge responsibility, and I’m sure there were times when Noah questioned God and complained to him and wondered what the heck he was doing there.

And really, is this not the ever-continuing story of creation? It’s easy to think that God’s supposed silence means that he is irrelevant–or worse, non-existent. “Yeah, sure, he spoke out of burning bushes during the Old Testament….but he doesn’t do that anymore.” Even for the more devout who do believe that God speaks to them, there’s still a tendency to lose all hope during the darkest moments of our own lives.

We are a postdiluvian people!  We have the benefit of knowing the full story!  Noah didn’t know that there would be a rainbow on the other side of the flood… but we do. And whatever the floods around us today–whether personal or communal–that rainbow remains a sign of God’s covenant to his people and a source of hope for all of us.

(Originally posted 6/8/08 at