There were rainbows before the great flood

Dear Congregation,

a big ship, a huge flood, animals, a pigeon, a rainbow - do you have any idea what it's about? Yes, the biblical story of Noah's Ark is well known. We already got to know them as children - in children's services, in religious instruction or wherever. This story is not missing in any children's Bible.

Why is this story so popular? To a large extent, this is certainly due to the fact that it can be told so beautifully and, above all, so beautifully portrayed and painted. Noah built a large ship, the ark, in the middle of the land, there was no water to be seen far and wide - that is an interesting picture. There are even precise instructions on how to do this in the Bible. God said to Noah: "Make yourself a box of fir wood and make chambers in it and cover it with pitch inside and outside." There are also precise measurements of how big the ship should be. Then Noah takes a pair of each of the animals and leads them into the ark - this is one of the most popular motifs for illustrating the story. "And you must," said God, "bring into the ark of all animals, of all flesh, a pair each, male and female, so that they may live with you. Of the birds according to their kind, of the cattle according to their kind and of every creeping thing on earth according to its kind. " After the great flood came and after they had been out for weeks, Noah kept sending birds to find out if land was in sight again. Finally a pigeon comes back with the leaf of an olive tree - Noah knows that the tide is going back. Finally, Noah sees a rainbow - as a sign from God that something like this will never happen again. This rainbow has also been painted by countless children in children's services and the pictures of it have already been hung in many churches and meetinghouses.

But the story of Noah's Ark isn't just popular because it's so dramatic and colorful. It is also an exciting story of faith and hope: Just because God tells him, Noah builds a huge ship in the middle of the country. He does what God tells him to do. In history people and animals are saved from certain death. God makes a covenant with Noah and his family and makes a promise: There will be no more flood.

So we have this story in mind - the ark as a rescue boat, as a place of refuge, almost of security. Because of this, it can easily happen that we forget what actually led to this enormous flood, the deluge. We easily forget that this is also a brutal and cruel story. Because it is like this: Noah and his extended family ("you should go into the ark with your sons, with your wife and with the wives of your sons") and the animals will be saved. The reason is: "Noah was a pious man and blameless in his time; he walked with God."

All other life on earth perishes in history. Because, this is how the whole drama begins: "But when the Lord saw that man's wickedness was great on earth and all the poetry and aspirations of their hearts were only evil, he regretted that he had made men on earth, and His heart troubled him, and he said, I will destroy men whom I have created from the earth, from man to cattle, and to creeping things, and even to the birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I made it. "

And in this story it is described exactly how it happened: Forty days it rained continuously "and the waters increased and grew so much on earth that all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered. Then went under all flesh that moved on earth. " Finally we read: "Only Noah was left and what was with him in the ark."

On the one hand, the brutal thought that God regrets human creation and wants to kill them all. On the other hand the symbol of the ark, salvation, and the rainbow as a sign that God makes a covenant with people, promises them to keep them alive, to remain loyal to them. How does that fit together?

Let's take a look at the end of the Flood, the moment the waters were gone. God then tells Noah to leave the ark with his family and all animals:

"So Noah went out with his sons and with his wife and the wives of his sons, plus all wild animals, all cattle, all birds and all creeps that crawl on the earth; it went out of the ark, each with his own kind. But Noah He built an altar to the Lord, and took of all clean cattle and of all clean birds, and sacrificed burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled the sweet smell and said in his heart, I will no longer curse the earth for man's sake the poetry and striving of the human heart is evil from youth. And from now on I will not beat everything that lives as I did. As long as the earth stands, sowing and harvesting, frost and heat, summer and winter shall not cease , Day and night."

In this scene we notice again why the Noah story is so popular: God has such human traits here! He lets himself be influenced by the grateful Noah. He obviously doesn't care whether there are people on his earth or not. Because if there had been no one left, no one could bring him a thank offering, then he would not smell the "lovely smell". "God speaks in his heart" - that is a touching thought: God has a relationship with us humans. Because Noah is grateful to him, God can be addressed in his heart! And not only that: He decides that something like this cruel deluge should never happen again.

But then the question arises: What has changed fundamentally as a result of the Flood? Before the flood it was like this: "God saw that man's wickedness was great on earth and all the poetry and aspirations of their hearts were only ever evil." And after the flood it is still like this: "because the poetry and striving of the human heart is evil from youth." Ultimately, it follows from this, nothing has changed with the people as a result of the Flood. But God has changed: He still has enough reasons to send a new flood over and over again, but he no longer does it! Instead, God and Noah establish contact, enter into a relationship with one another.

I believe that through this story of Noah's Ark we should understand how God feels about us, what kind of relationship he has with us. Obviously he doesn't want any other people than those who exist, none other than us. If he had wanted that, he wouldn't have let Noah and his family build the ark. God has, so to speak, resigned himself to the fact that we are who we are. He didn't repeat creation and tried to do better the second time. But he wants us, like Noah, "to walk" with God, that is, with him. He wants us to have a relationship with him, he wants - as it is shown in our story - to smell the "lovely smell" of our thanks offerings! He does a lot for this relationship: he holds back, he puts a limit on himself, he wants to save us.

This whole drama with the flood, the ark and the rainbow tells us: You, human, are valuable to God. He wants something from you! Because of you, he withholds his righteousness and does not send a second flood. Because of you he says in his heart: I want to save life! Enough reason for us to be faithful to God, to be grateful, and to walk with him.

Amen.