“In the Beginning”: Noah and the Ark
Can we just talk about the elephant in the corner? Or perhaps it is the two elephants in the corner of the ark we need to talk about? The account of Noah is deeply troubling, isn’t it? There. I said it. Think about what happened here: God wiped out the entire earth’s population except one family. Actually, that’s too PG—God drowned every living person except Noah and his family. This should trouble us. This should stretch our understanding. How could a good God do that? The way we answer that question reveals much about our understanding of God. Let’s go to the text to find that answer.
5When the Lord saw that human wickedness was widespreadon the earth and that every inclination of the human mind was nothing but evil all the time, 6the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and he was deeply grieved. 7Then the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I created, off the face of the earth, together with the animals, creatures that crawl, and birds of the sky — for I regret that I made them.” 8Noah, however, found favor with the Lord.
9These are the family records of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his contemporaries; Noah walked with God. 10And Noah fathered three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11Now the earth was corruptin God’s sight, and the earth was filled with wickedness.12God saw how corruptthe earth was, for every creature had corruptedits way on the earth. 13Then God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to every creature, for the earth is filled with wickedness because of them; therefore I am going to destroy them along with the earth. (Genesis 6:5-13 CSB, emphasis added)
Wickedness. Evil. Corrupt. Wickedness. Corrupt. Corrupted. Wickedness.
How We See Sin Matters
Do you get God’s point here? This was not a matter of people slightly missing the mark, of not quite grasping the intricacies of God’s will. This was a matter of people in outright hostile rebellion against their Creator. And this is where our answer to the question of how God could flood the world reveals much about us. You see, if we read this account—truly read it to study it—and walk away thinking God wronged humanity, it is only because we have minimized humanity’s sin. And when we do that, we are forced to minimize God’s holiness too. Our understanding of sin and our understanding of God’s holiness are fused together. A low view of one forces a low view of the other. And at the same time, a high view of one forces a high view of the other.
A Low View of Sin Forces a Low View of God
Here’s how that plays out in our understanding of God’s actions in the flood. Again, if we read this account and feel God was wrong (can we just be honest and admit we feel that way at times?), then it is because we have a low view of sin. We have read “wickedness,” “evil,” “corrupt,” “wickedness,” “corrupt,” “corrupted,” and “wickedness” in the text and substituted something like “made a few mistakes,” “didn’t live up to God’s impossible standard,” or something like that instead. Then, if we have done that, it seems reasonable to see God’s response as disproportionate. He drowned people over a few mistakes? That’s not right!
A High View of God Forces a High View of Sin
But lets see where a high view of sin leads us. If we read “wickedness,” “evil,” “corrupt,” “wickedness,” “corrupt,” “corrupted,” and “wickedness” for what they are, we ask a different question. How could people rebel against our God like that? How could they treat Him and His creation that way? What was wrong with them? That’s not right! Why did He choose to save anyone?
God is our holy, good, loving, perfect Creator. He deserves nothing but our complete love, loyalty, and obedience. Anything—anything—less than that is grievous, which is why God’s judgment to flood the earth was righteous. Yes, God drowning every person except Noah and his family is troubling, but far less troubling than that generation’s rebellion, and our rebellion, against God.
You have not yet considered what a heavy weight sin is.” —Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) 
Preschool Tip: While we need to share with our preschoolers that God judged people because of their sin (or else Noah’s salvation means very little), we don’t want to camp out there. Instead, we want to talk more about God saving Noah during this session. But this is where you want to be careful to make it clear that Noah did not deserve salvation. God rescued Noah by grace, and grace alone. Noah deserved judgment just like everyone else in his day. Noah didn’t earn salvation; he wasn’t saved because he was righteous; he was righteous because he was saved. As you teach this week, be sure to stress this with our preschoolers—Noah was saved by God’s kindness, as a gift. And that’s how we are saved from sin as well.
Kids Tip: The story of Noah is the apex of human history from creation to Abraham. In Genesis 4-11 we see the continuing deepening, broadening, and ugliness of sin, but at the same time we see signs of grace running parallel. Cain murdered Abel, yet God graciously gave him a mark to protect him even in judgment. Lamech, from Cain’s line, bragged about killing, yet we see God give Adam and Eve a new line in Seth. We read of generation after generation dying in the Genesis 5 genealogy, and yet we read about Enoch who did not die—there is a way to escape death by God’s work, not ours. Then we get to the flood, and yet we see God spare Noah and his family by grace. But as powerful as this is, don’t stop there with your kids. Get them to Jesus. Make sure you reserve time to talk about the Christ Connection this week (as you should each week). God saving Noah by grace is one of the earliest, clearest, most powerful pictures of Jesus in Scripture. And it will be followed soon after with the calling of Abraham, the one through whom Jesus would come. Use this session to prime the pump for that one.
 Anselm of Canterbury, “Why God Became Man,” in A Scholastic Miscellany: Anselm to Ockham, ed. and trans. Eugene R. Fairweather (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), 138.