Based on Genesis 6–8
Retold by Paul Katula
After a long time, most of the people on earth had decided not to care about God anymore. They didn't teach their children how to thank God properly, and they even started sinning at an increasing rate, with things like killing, lying, and hurting other people. Therefore, God reduced the maximum number of years that a human being could live to 120 years. (It used to be much longer, and Adam and Eve were immortal until they first sinned.)
Seeing all the pain people were causing each other, God became very sad. In fact, he even wished he hadn't created people in the first place. These thoughts led God to make a decision: he would take away all the lives he had created on earth.
But Noah was not like the other people on earth: he still believed in God and obeyed what God commanded him to do. Noah was like the one shining droplet in an ocean that was full of dark, evil people. God was, needless to say, very happy with Noah.
"I am going to kill all the people I have created," God told Noah. "I will cause a huge flood over the whole planet, and everyone will drown. However, I will spare you and those you love.
"Build a gigantic boat out of cypress wood (I'll tell you how to build it), and fill it with two of every type of animal. Make sure to bring some food long, so you and everyone on board will last, safely through the flood."
The boat was called an "ark," and Noah followed God's design plans perfectly. Noah and his family (that is, his wife, his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives) got on board and left the door open so animals, like birds and creeping creatures, could come aboard. It was a magnificient sight!
The noise was deafening: lions roared, donkeys brayed, dogs barked, birds tweeted, and sheep bleated. Two by two, all different types and sizes of animals went onto Noah's ark. Tiny worms wiggled on, horses pranced, and rabbits hopped.
God himself closed the door to the ark after all the animals were aboard. Then, he locked the door so no one (or no animal) would fall out during the torrential flood. And "torrential" doesn't even begin to describe how hard it rained — and rained, and rained, and rained.
It rained "cats and dogs" for 40 days and 40 nights, enough to flood the entire earth and kill everything that wasn't on Noah's ark.
After all that, God remembered his promise to Noah, to keep him and all his loved ones safe. So, he sent a wind, which ended the storm.
Noah was asleep at the time, but the silence woke him up on the day God stopped the rain. He knew something was different, because for so long, it seemed, rain was pouring down, and that was all anyone could hear. Except that day, all he could hear were the waves pounding into the side of the ark.
He ran through the boat and woke everyone else up. "It's finally over!" he exclaimed. "Let's all give thanks to God for stopping the rain and saving us!"
Now, even though the storm had stopped, the earth was still covered with water. It took 150 days for the water to recede enough so that everyone could get off onto dry land. So, when it was possible, Noah let everyone off at the place where the ark came to rest, in the mountains of Ararat.
He first let the raven off, who flew around until the waters dried up, because they originally were higher than the mountains by about 20 feet. Next he let the dove off, three times. The first time was nothing special, but the second time, the dove carried an olive branch back in its beak. The third time, the dove never returned to the ark.
So Noah lowered the gangplank, and the other animals made joyful noises as they got off the boat. Noah and his family built an altar for God and made burnt offerings on it to give thanks to God for keeping them safe through the biggest flood in the history of the world.
When God heard the thanks coming up to heaven from Noah's family, he promised never to destroy all living creatures again. As a sign of this promise from God, he made a rainbow.
"I have set my rainbow in the clouds as a sign of my covenant," God said. "I will never again upset the normal processes of nature," the Lord promised.
Exceptions to how long humans could live are found after Noah. For example, Isaac lived to 180 and his son Jacob to 147. The moral here is that as sin spreads, God decreases our "life." In this story, sin has spread over the whole earth, making God sorry he ever created human beings. It's not exactly a rosy picture of mankind. The decreasing lifespans have to do with God's decreasing happiness with us.
Water is an important compound to life on earth, but here, it brings death by drowning. The water is from God, who has decided to end the lives of all the corrupt humans, people who had turned their backs on him and led very sinful lives. Corruption is just how one sin leads to another? Can you think of times in your life when one wrong turn led to another, and things just kept going downhill?
The Flood story teaches us that only intervention by God can end the spread of sin. That goes for the whole planet on the cosmic scale of the Great Flood, but it also goes for each one of us in our personal lives. Only by turning to God can we be saved from sin. That's one of the reasons we believe we can only be saved if we truly believe in Christ.
Has God ever rescued you or someone you care about from disaster? I suspect he probably has, and more than once. Did you build an "altar" and offer God your thanks at those times? How have you responded to God delivering you from the destruction of a "great flood" in the past? Did you always realize that only God could save you?
Let's face it (Gen 8:21), sin is a part of human nature. God decides to keep us alive and let the earth go on normally, even though sin had spread so widely, because he knows this about us. He loves us anyway. That is to say, God will keep evil in check and not let it get out of control, as it did before the flood.
That's the real story of Genesis 6–8, and it's not so important whether or not waters covered the whole earth, 20 feet above Mount Everest! The story is about God's mercy and his willingness to deal with human beings, despite their flaws. Let scientists talk about how the flood is not possible all they want — you know the real story, which is that all we have to do is turn to God, and he will forgive our sins. He will help us and keep us safe from the influences of evil. God picked Noah out of a whole bunch of evil people, and that also teaches us that he will search for good people as much as he has to, just so he can find one he can save.