Noah the Drunken Farmer

So, there is this strange story about Noah that follows the flood narrative. If you have ever come across it, I am almost certain that you have wondered about its awkward presence in the story of this righteous man. If you have not read it, here you go. “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent” (Gen 9:20-21). The story goes on to describe how his boys found him naked in his tent.

This is quite the transition in the story of Noah. From the righteous ark builder to a drunken farmer. Why does God give us this story? What should we take from it? I believe there are a few important things that this story highlights. I for one, am very grateful for this narrative and others like it.

It was, is, and will always be about grace

The flood was a creation reversal. It returned the earth to its primordial state. When the water subsided it was like starting all over again. Noah and his family were the only human beings on the planet. There presence on that new earth was the result of nothing they had done. It was by grace alone that God chose, commissioned, and rescued Noah (Gen 6:9). His righteousness stood out among the rest of the human race, but that was the result of God’s favor not the reason for it.
This second Adam was no different than the first. It took him no time to defile the newly cleansed ground. But this was no surprise to God. After the flood, he made a commitment to never curse the earth again. Have you ever read the ground or basis for this covenant? Look at this. “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen  8:21). 
This is an incredible statement. God’s oath of grace that prohibits him from another flood is rooted in our wickedness. He will not punish like this again because we are so evil. This seems like some upside down logic. But this is the rationale of grace. Where sin abounds, grace abounds that much more.
Noah is a sinner. He was a sinner before the flood and he was a sinner after the flood. He was a person in desperate need of God’s saving mercy, just like us. His drunken episode keeps this front and center.
It will take more than a flood

In the flood, God literally wiped out all living things except for the creatures on the ark. It would seem that evil had been wiped off the face of the earth. The world was surely cleansed. As we just mentioned, this is far from the truth. In reality, it will take more than a world-wide flood to remove the sin that clings so desperately to the heart of man. The flood did not fix the problem, it could not. The wickedness that provoked the wrath of God was alive and well in the heart of Noah.
It would take the judging and saving act of the cross and the gift of the Spirit that flows out of that for hearts to change. The new covenant promised new hearts, transformation from within, and the Spirit who would bring all this about. The flood pushes us forward to this gracious work of God.
There are no such thing as heroes

Heroes plural is a misnomer. There is one hero in the biblical storyline. There is room for only one person on the stage of the redemptive drama. Every other character is a supporting actor in the show. God puts the plain truth about biblical characters into Scripture to make this fact plain. This is partly why we get this episode of Noah smashed in his tent. He does it so we can connect with their fallenness and know the same grace they received. He does it so we look past them to the flawless one who won’t ever let us down. Jesus is the only hope for Noah. He is the only hope for us.

Gospel and Flood

What does the gospel have to do with the flood? It does not seem like the language of “good news” and world devastation should appear in the same sentence. In the book of 1 Peter, we have a gospel-centered perspective on the flood narrative.

“…God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is,eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Pet 3:20-21).

Note how Peter draws a link between flood and baptism. Just as Noah was rescued through the waters of judgment so we are saved through judgment by the death and resurrection of Christ. Our baptism symbolizes the saving event and this actually corresponds to the flood. Thomas Schreiner in his commentary on 1 Peter has some excellent insights on the connection between flood and baptism.

 “The water that deluged the world in Noah’s day and through which Noah was saved functions as a model or pattern for Christian believers. But to what is the water related in the new covenant? The answer is baptism. In fact, we have the surprising statement that “baptism … now saves you.” Before examining that statement, we must consider in what way the flood waters prefigure or correspond to baptism. The waters of the flood deluged the ancient world and were the agent of death. Similarly, baptism, which was by immersion during the time of the New Testament, occurs when one is plunged under the water. Anyone who is submerged under water dies. Submersion under the water represents death, as Paul suggested in Rom 6:3–5. Jesus described his upcoming death in terms of baptism (Mark 10:38–39; Luke 12:50), indicating that submersion under the water aptly portrays death. Just as the chaotic waters of the flood were the agent of destruction, so too the waters of baptism are waters of destruction.”

“In New Testament theology, however (cf. Matt 3:16; Mark 10:38–39; Rom 6:3–5), believers survive the death-dealing baptismal waters because they are baptized with Christ. They are rescued from death through his resurrection (Rom 6:3–5; Col 2:12). Hence, we are not surprised to read in this verse that baptism saves “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The waters of baptism, like the waters of the flood, demonstrate that destruction is at hand, but believers are rescued from these waters in that they are baptized with Christ, who has also emerged from the waters of death through his resurrection. Just as Noah was delivered through the stormy waters of the flood, believers have been saved through the stormy waters of baptism by virtue of Christ’s triumph over death. The word “now” refers to the present eschatological age of fulfillment. With the coming of Jesus Christ the age of salvation has arrived.”[1]

Baptism is a gospel portrayal and a gospel proclamation. When it happens in the church it illustrates the the once for all work of Christ’s death and resurrection that redeems us. By faith we are united to Christ, which means we are connected to his death and resurrection. In baptism, the old man is destroyed and drowned and the new man emerges. The flood in Peter is pressed into the service of the gospel. As we better understand the terrifying justice and overwhelming grace of the flood we will be better positioned to grasp the riches of God’s grace in Christ.

[1] Schreiner, T. R. (2003). Vol. 37: 1, 2 Peter, Jude. The New American Commentary (193–194). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Propitiation: The Gospel in Poem

This poem was inspired by many of the things I wrote in the previous post. I have been thinking a lot about how the flood relates to the gospel. This is my attempt to capture these thoughts in a more artistic way. If your curious about the biblical background of the poem, you can check out the flood narrative in Genesis 6-9, the various crucifixion narratives in the gospels, and the doctrine of propitiation as found in Paul and John’s letters.

If you would like to check out more gospel-centered poems like this, check out these links: Christus Victor, Redemption, Lion and Lamb, Reconciliation, Glory, and Justification.

A Personal Reflection on the Flood

I spent a good amount of time studying the story of Noah recently for a research project. I tried my best to utilize my imagination as I turned the narrative over and over again. I was stirred by two main thoughts as I read and wrote. First, I was made to pause when I read over the phrase, “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Gen 6:6). What could be so horrific that our Creator would express pain at the very sight of our existence? What in the world could cause the God who declared all things good to state that he wished he never made any of it? For me, this was a mack truck moment. I was bombarded and smashed by the terrifying nature of my rebellion and sin. I was undone by the fact that my existence could be grievous to my Maker. How does a creature do anything but unravel at such words from his Creator?

As I kept reading the story, I made a connection between two things that I had never recognized before. I saw the link between God’s grief and God’s wrath. God’s justice and wrath are the rightful response to sin’s rebellion. But this wrath is not calculated and heartless, it is laced with tremendous grief and sorrow. God is invested in his creation and the creatures he has placed here. His judgment is never distant and detached. The flood is a mighty demonstration of just power, but it is also an expression of great pain. It is the grieving God that sends the deluge on the earth. To me, this fresh perspective inserted a new picture of God in my mind: a Judge with tears in his eyes.

The second thing that stood out in the study was healing to this unraveled soul. I observed the kindness of God in a new way. The grief of God in the narrative was all inclusive. He was saddened by every moving, breathing, and existing thing (Gen. 6:7). He desired to blot it all out. The fact that Noah was not judged with the rest of the world is the result of one thing: grace. The text makes it clear that God showed mercy to Noah (Gen. 6:9). [1] In reality, the grace of God is the reason the world was created in the beginning. It is also the reason it continues to exist to this day. It is the same reason we live. God could have shut the book on us for good in the flood event.

Put yourself in Noah’s shoes. What would it have been like to watch the destruction of the world? What would it have been like to watch the waters rise and observe your town destroyed? What would it have been like to watch hundreds of people drown and realize that you deserved to be outside of the boat?  Noah had one of the most vivid firsthand views and experiences of the radical nature of God’s grace. I wonder what he felt, what he thought, and what he said during that time in the ark. The event must have changed him. We know he was tremendously grateful because the first thing he did when they hit dry land was build an altar, make sacrifices, and worship God (Gen. 8:20-21).

This narrative pushed me forward into the work of Christ for us, as it must. It caused me to step back and recognize that judgment, grief, and sorrow are all intermingled in a climactic way in the work of the Son. He was drowned in the waves of God’s indignation that we might walk the shores of God’s grace. Wave after wave of God’s sorrowful wrath pounded upon the Christ and ultimately swallowed him whole. This deluge of God’s judgment resulted in a torrent of mercy toward us. The flood has helped me grasp that God is very kind.

[1] Ross, Allen. (1998). Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. (185). Grand Rapids: Baker Books. “A close study of the word grace will support the idea that it signifies unmerited favor. If the word is given its proper meaning, it means that the recipients of grace actually deserved the judgment too…No one escapes divine judgment apart from grace.”