Sojourning Through the Deluge

How should you sojourn through Scripture?

How should you sojourn through Scripture?

I went and saw Darren Aronofsky’s Noah during the opening weekend with my wife. The point of this article isn’t to review the movie. You can find some helpful reviews from Greg Thornbury, Joe Carter, Brian Mattson, and Kevin McLenithan at CaPC (those will give the sweep of evangelical responses). As they mention, there were positive and negative points about the movie, but the one area where I think Aronofsky pushes into the narrative well is right as the flood starts and the Ark is being tossed about by the wind and the waves. During this scene, you can hear the cries of people mixed with the roar of the waters. You can hardly distinguish the two. That realization that all other humans were being killed by the deluge weighed heavily on Noah and his family.

So often when we teach our children about the Flood we do so without letting the weight of the narrative sink in. The deluge was a judgment because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intention of the thoughts if his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5) and “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and filled with violence” (6:11). God commands Noah to build an ark and to take animals and his family on the ark to preserve life. The waters come; the waves billow; the floods rise. The Spirit says, “And all flesh died. . . . Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died” (7:21-22). Those are sobering verses.

How do we normally treat the narrative integrity of this story? Just as poorly as Aronofsky does in some points in his movie. We white wash the grief that should press down in our hearts with cutesy flannel graphs of smiling animals and rainbows. We commercialize God’s judgement of the entire world by decorating our baby’s rooms with a happy-go-lucky Noah and family. Can you imagine the inner turmoil and possible guilt Noah might have felt as his family survived this catastrophic flood?

Walking Through the Flood

Christians must sojourn through the deluge. We must submerge ourselves in the Word of God—especially those difficult stories. We must do this as a family. Otherwise, what we are left with is the neutered children stories, flannel graphs, and children decor available at most Christian retailers today—not the actual stories of the Bible.

It’s not just Noah either. We do this with most of the Bible’s stories. Part of the beauty of the Bible is the tension it creates as the gospel narrative unfolds. It’s filled with judgement, death, incest, lies, deceit, homosexuality, fornication, murder, rape, and disobedience. These sinful elements (sin described with straightforward honesty, but without crudeness) create movement. They drive us forward. They keep us asking, “Why?” They keep us looking for Someone who can redeem this world and us.

Reading through these stories with our family provides us the opportunity to have difficult discussions with our children and spouses. It’s a critical part of spiritual maturity. Maturity in Christ cannot be attained without wrestling with the tough questions that the Scripture raises. Multiplication of disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) cannot occur without this collective wrestling. So how can we teach others to obey all the words of the Lord, if we have failed to wrestle with them as a family?

The Darkness Makes Way for the Light

Also, all the sinful elements in Scripture are things that will undoubtedly confront our families—regardless if we introduce them to our children or spouses. Insulation isn’t an option. Is there a better way to introduce difficult topics like death, rape, murder, adultery than in the river of the gospel story? Is there a better way to tackle difficult social issues like abortion, rebellion, or homosexuality than through the sweep of Scripture? A story where these elements are not praised or perverted into something other than they are. A story where these elements drive us towards our need for a Savior.

That doesn’t mean we open our Bibles directly to Judges 19 with our toddlers, but it does mean within the time we have with our family we cover Scripture from front to back. My children are young still, but the best conversation I’ve had with my oldest daughter Claire happened because we were reading through the Passion narrative in Matthew. Claire was so conflicted by the death of Jesus. She felt it was unfair that he had to die. We spent at least the next two hours going back and forth about the significance of the pivotal plot points in the gospel narrative. The conversation went from Jesus died for sinners to “Daddy are you going to die?” to “Will I die daddy?” We discussed the Heidelberg Catechism question and answer one. I encouraged her that for those who believe the promises of God, “Jesus is our only hope in life and death.” I could see the wheels turning and she by the end of our discussion she told me, “Daddy, I believe the promises of God.” I ended with a prayer for God to be faithful to his promises for our family and that he would grow Claire’s faith. These kind of frank conversations only occur when we sojourn together with our families through the deluge.

Don’t be afraid of difficult stories in Scripture. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know why” when our children ask hard questions. Tell them you’ve struggled with the same questions. Tell them you will pray and ask God for answers as well. Don’t relieve tension in the Scriptures that God inspired. One thing we can be sure of these things—he put many of these stories in Scripture so he can disciple us and we can disciple our families. He put them there to contrast the bad news (that sin and evil runs through each of our hearts) with the good news (the Redeemer has come and is offering a covenant of peace made in his blood). Sojourn through the deluge together.

Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. He is a member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.