I thought Noah was fantastic! Too many Christians have judged it without really seeing it.
And those who have taken the time to see it and still criticize it have not, in my view, seen it closely enough.
As true followers of Jesus, we simply should not be so shallow, judgmental, and old-fashioned. It’s time Christians join the times and be the salt and light God called us to be.
Before attempting to review Noah, I wanted to make sure I read the story again. I did not want my review of Noah to be based on hearsay or the opinions and outrage of others. No, I owed it to the literally hundreds – perhaps thousands – who have not asked for my critique to “see” the story with fresh, inquisitive eyes – eyes that actually looked for its message, subtly, and power.
So I opened my Bible and read the story of Noah again. I tried to pry away my Sunday School familiarity awash with felt animals, a big boat, and a friendly old man. Such a reading would be my way of “judging” the story – filtering it through an interpretation that softens it or serves my interests and comforts – without really “seeing” it. I thought that would be shallow… and old-fashioned – old-fashioned because it would re-work a biblical narrative into something I can use for my own agenda. “Old-fashioned,” to me, does not refer to old versus new, but to worldly versus heavenly. That which is heavenly is always new, fresh, and alive no matter how old it is.
I do not want to be old-fashioned.
In any case, I felt God did not want me to judge this story by seeing it through the eyes of my own self-interest, my Christian Bible-reading obligations, or some other personal reason. I felt he wanted me to see it through open, honest eyes – helped along by him – so I could actually “see” the story, hear its message, and perhaps strive to embody it by the power of the Spirit for my own generation.
So I opened my Bible and read the story again. I tried to take my time and be careful. I wanted my review to be good.
I watched and listened.
It was harder than I thought – not to be free of my own agenda, but to take in the gravity of the situation of Noah’s world. If the story were merely a Sunday school tale, no problem. If it were only fodder for my own “interpretation” or version, say, for a movie or novella, then it would have been an easy read.
But it wasn’t easy. I had to let it speak to me on its terms, not mine. I had to be honest. The story is graphic, unembellished, and at times harsh.
I had forgotten the level of dark, unspeakable corruption that poisoned the human race in Noah’s day. I was confronted with the fact that this actually happened – in my world, among my ancestors, in the presence of my God.
Wickedness was so rampant and internally natural to humans that God actually regretted making them.
It hurt to read that.
Nowadays some people think God no longer feels sorrow or anger because he is only in a good mood thanks to the cross. But I feel such thinking “judges” the biblical narrative. It subjects the story’s revelation of God to our presuppositions. We cannot “see” the story that way. As a result, our “review” of the story replaces the story itself.
How could a God of real love and grace not experience the range of emotions described in Scripture, including the New Testament? How could we judge the story by whittling God down to a set of grace principles rather than incorporate it into the fuller narrative of salvation history – our very heritage, our gospel?
I was haunted by Yahweh’s emotions. I had to force my eyes to see what those few short verses said about God. I could not pass them over, implicitly putting them on the shelf of “that’s just the Old Testament.” Instead I had to let the divine emotions over the evil situation sink in.
Sorrow. Regret. Pain.
That provoked me to deal with raw, real life, rather than inoculate myself to it through cheap grace or amusement. It was a difficult provocation.
I took a moment to think of a fraction – the tiniest, most minuscule of fractions – of what God sees around the world on a daily basis.
I thought of how evil people steal little kids for sex slavery, defiling them to death for their own gain. I thought about terrorists who train children to kill for a twisted ideology, equipped with machine guns and savage hate, without ever experiencing their due childhood innocence – often before their tenth birthday.
I thought about failing marriages and adulteries and fornications and homosexuality and violence and addictions filling our cities and suburbs and schools. I thought of the way some who identify as Christians engage in the same behaviors, all while attending “relevant” churches with successful preachers but little transformation of actual people.
As I reviewed the Noah story, I thought about how God sees all of this everyday. And I thought of how he’s looking for something different. Someone different.
Back in Noah’s day, God’s only recourse – his righteous decree for the sake of humanity’s future – was to carry out comprehensive judgment. The watery chaos of Genesis 1 had to return. God had to renew creation and start over. But the weight of that massive, global ocean of destruction was still not greater than the weight on God’s heart. Things were dark. The world staggered under violence and rebellion. God’s innocent eyes ached to watch.
“Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh… Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generations; Noah walked with God.”
How refreshing Noah must have been to God’s just heart! Noah would be like a new Adam, the father of a renewed Adamic race.
Noah was a human with a nature like ours. Yet that same Noah showed me that it is possible to live in this stubborn, rebellious world and still be truly innocent, holy, righteous – God’s friend.
Reading Noah again I remembered how God was indeed refreshed by the fragrance of my Savior’s sacrifice. Noah prefigured God’s son. Jesus Christ’s faithful life, death, and resurrection caused the Father great joy – and atoned for the sins of all who would believe!
Now by the gift of that sacrifice, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, followers of Jesus can be conformed to his image in practical life, becoming the kind of humans God always intended.
I thought about Noah for today. Yes, God loves all of his children. But not all of his children love him back enough to walk with him as Noah did (the way Hebrews 11 and 12 encourage modern saints to do).
Does God have friends like Noah today?
I don’t want to judge the old story by not asking that question. If it is shallow for Christians to judge a movie because “it’s not biblical,” then it is even more shallow for Christians to judge a Bible story by not taking it more seriously than movies, by not digging deeply to “see” it with the same vehemence they pursue entertainment, and by not allowing it to provoke them into radical, Christ-like change.
So a fair review of Noah brings me to ask, Does God have friends like Noah today? Are there authentic, powerful followers of Jesus who actually know him and please him and impact their world? Are there people alive today who refresh God’s heart?
Or are we too busy looking for the latest movie or doctrinal fad to distract us from reality – all while relishing in the freedom to do so?
Does God have people so deeply dedicated to Jesus Christ that they cultivate new creation life to the point of actual, supernatural righteousness, love, and power?
The real Noah was a world-changer, a courageous hero of whom the world was not worthy. And he became such a man at great cost.
If I am not seeking to walk with God as Noah did amid a perverse and sinful generation, I am old-fashioned, shallow, and judgmental in the eyes of God.
And if I am not absorbed with developing Christ’s image in me, and walking in a blameless way before God as Noah did, then I have become more a product of my hip but spiritually weak Christian culture than of God’s heavenly culture – the culture to which Noah belonged.
That is the very kind of shallowness and judgmentalism I wish to avoid.
As you can tell, then, this is not a review of the recent movie about Noah. I did not see the movie and have nothing to say about it.
This is a review of the biblical story about Noah. For this review I had to read his story with fresh eyes. I wanted to “see” it so I could review it with integrity.
But now that I did see it, I find I have no right to review it.
It, rather, is reviewing me.