In the beginning… God said “let there be light”. The first act of Creation. The start of our existence. Light has so many symbolic qualities, light overcoming darkness — good overcoming evil (John 1:5). And the light God created, bursting forth from the sun, has amazing physical properties. This light is not a single color. It is made up of a spectrum of colors – some we can not even see. Refracted, the light explodes into a rainbow – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. The symbolism of this is multifaceted, for one, God’s desire to draw all of us into his light – “we are precious in His sight.”
But it is interesting that the rainbow was built into creation. It was a part of the first thing God did, NOT as an addition. Later God would explain the sign to Noah1, “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” Rather than destroy, the rainbow was a sign of God’s plan. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” (Jn 3:16)
From the beginning it was God’s desire to save you.
1 – The Flood is one of the most disturbing stories in all of scripture. Difficult to comprehend logically, but it is much more difficult – even troubling – morally. But there are interpretive options, from literal worldwide flood to localized flood to allegory.
Opening interpretive options can be frightening. Know that the Bible IS TRUE. But please understand there are different types of truth. There is historical and there is spiritual truth. Let me give a biblical example, Jesus taught in parables. These stories are true, but they are NOT historical. And it is essential to realize, spiritual truth is much more important that historical.
Let’s take a look at the options:
Literal: How could the whole world flood? How could all of the animals fit into the ark (or travel so far to even get to the ark?)? The answer is simple, the same as how can a human rise from the dead?, God is able.
But that does not answer the harder question, the moral conundrum created by killing every living creature on land. To be honest, my only answer to this dilemma is that as a fallen human I can not understand God’s ways. If I try to examine it, I am only left with more questions:
- If simply a punishment, it seems extreme. Why destroy babies and animals? Why destroy nature far from any evil human?
- If this action was morally correct, why would God promise to never do it again?
- Most importantly, if God’s plan for salvation was always Jesus, how does a worldwide flood fit into that truth? (Someone might quickly respond that God is going to destroy the world again – with fire, but no matter how you interpret the end, Jesus changes the dynamic. Now every person is invited into the Ark. — So how does destruction without invitation fit God’s character? Unless you think God’s character changed?)
I have no answers to these questions, but again, I am not God. Nor can I comprehend His ways. Just as I can not fathom how all the animals fit into the Ark.
Allegory or Localized Flood: The first eleven chapters of Genesis, before Abraham, are different than the rest of scripture. These chapters were not a part of the lived history of Abraham’s children. So, either the text was handed down orally by those outside of the chosen people, or it was given by God. Neither option precludes that the text is allegory (Jesus, who is God, came teaching parables!).
Remember, biblical allegory is truth — allegory highlights spiritual truth, without concern for historical. For example, it is often said that the seven days of Genesis 1 is from God’s perspective, He is outside of time (2Pt 3:8). Therefore the days do not have to be literal. But it still reveals the truth that God is the Creator. (Along with the important truths of rest and worship — which I doubt God needs, but I sure do!)
To the story of the Flood. As allegory, or parable, it serves to explain why God chose to call Abraham (to start salvation history, culminating in Jesus), rather than kill evil. I suspect many, like me, have pondered how nice it would be to get rid of all the cruds in this world! But the Flood reveals the truth that Evil can not be murdered out of existence. It always returns — even to the people saved in the Ark (see the strange story at the end Gen 9). The opening chapters of Genesis, including the Flood, set stage for the calling of Abraham and reveal the need for God to bring healing to the world. Salvation can not come through violence. A change in our heart is required and this can only happen by an act of loving sacrifice! (The parable of the tares and wheat is another example of this truth in the scripture — you can’t just pull out the evil.)
Which Answer?: There are so many things I do not know. Long ago I decided the grand debate over literal vs allegorical just didn’t matter. I believe God is my Creator. I believe His salvation plan brought Jesus, who is both God and human. I believe in the death and resurrection. By putting my trust in God’s grace, the Spirit of God now dwells with me! And God leads me to flood the world with salvation. As to all my confusion and questions… only God knows.
But if the literal story of the Flood has caused you to stumble and lose faith. Please know, there are other interpretations. And the important truth is that you trust God. He will work out all of the details, as He revealed through the coming of Christ!