The recent movie Noah got some things exactly right

August 14, 2014

In preparation for my sermon on Noah last Sunday, I watched the movie Noah, which came out last spring. Given that the movie was over two hours long, and it only covers a few chapters in the Bible, the filmmakers had to take some liberties with the story.

For example, Noah believes that God is calling him to rescue only non-human creatures for the world after the flood. Therefore Noah isn’t interested in his sons taking wives aboard the ark. (Shem has a wife, but Noah mistakenly believes she’s barren.) From Noah’s perspective, his family would be sinning if they propagated the species after the flood. Why would God want to save human beings, he reasons, given that they were the creatures who messed everything up?

It’s understandable that Noah would be confused in this way. After all, God doesn’t say that he wants to save human beings until after Noah offers the sacrifice at the end of Genesis 8, in v. 21, when God says, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

This verse doesn’t say what we expect, by the way. We expect it to say, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, despite the fact that the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Instead God says it’s because the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Strange—except it expresses the truth that if God is going to continue to work with us human beings, he’s going to have to put up with our sinfulness. Or do something to solve our problem with sin.

Speaking of which, in the following scene, Noah’s wife tries to talk him out of the decision against taking wives for his sons. “There’s good in us,” she tells him. And she’s right. But Noah’s response is also correct: as good as he and his family are, they’re also sinners.

As I said in my sermon:

And make no mistake, the movie got it exactly right: Noah didn’t earn his place on that Ark, either. We know this because of verse 8: “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” This word for “favor”—it’s exactly the same as saying, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” “Noah found mercy… pardon for sinsforgiveness in the eyes of the Lord.” No matter how righteous a person Noah was, he wasn’t righteous enough to pay for the grace that bought his ticket on board that ark. It was a free, completely undeserved gift.

4 Responses to “The recent movie Noah got some things exactly right”

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    However, it is important to note what is said in the same passage, that Noah was a just man, blameless in all his ways. (I think that’s right.) In other words, no one is perfect enough to “deserve” God’s grace, but that does not mean God is indiscriminate about how he hands his blessings out. God picked Noah out for a reason, which reason had something to do with what kind of a person Noah was. Otherwise, we move close to the Calvinists.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I hear you, although I’m always slightly less concerned about moving in a Calvinist direction than you. 🙂 Certainly Noah was a good and righteous man, which distinguished him from his contemporaries. But as I said in my sermon (which I’ll post later), when scripture says, “Noah found favor,” it is literally the same as saying, “Noah found grace.” Grace and favor are the same word.

      I do think it’s important to say that Noah didn’t earn his place on the ark; it was, as always, grace.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Okay, but I would also note that I believe it was Ezekiel who said, “But though Noah and Daniel were in this place, they would save only themselves, and not the rest of you.” In other words, it appears that God plainly draws “distinctions” between people based on their own efforts at righteousness (which, however, are not perfect, and hence still in need of grace). I believe God does look for “something” in a person to decide whether to bestow saving grace upon him, though the something is not “perfection.”

      • brentwhite Says:

        Fair enough. As an Arminian, I would say that even our successful efforts at righteousness are a response to grace that God has given to us first. But we still have to respond, so I don’t really disagree with you.

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