What parent or grandparent has not visited Toys R Us and bought their toddler a plastic Noah’s Ark with a boat full of animals to enjoy? At the risk of sounding like Captain No-Fun, is there a danger in turning Noah’s Ark into a bathtub toy? Does the toy-making and the cartooning of the biblical story simply reinforce the skeptic’s belief that Noah’s Ark is a myth?
Churches are famous for creating Noah’s Ark themes for their children’s ministry, and why not? A boat full of animals is a kick for the kids and parents. Some parents bring their kids to church two by two making it double the fun. At check-in, parents learn that Johnny is in the lion’s room. Roarrrr. And Julie gets to hang with the pandas. How sweet.
However, did it ever occur to us that the story of Noah’s Ark is about a holy God who once brought catastrophic judgment upon all the evil people on the earth? God did this because “the LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”(Genesis 6:5). To be true to Noah’s story, perhaps we should toss a few dead carcasses around the children’s ministry rooms. Maybe all the volunteers should dress up like disaster relief workers.
Skeptics and some church-going people still believe the Fisher Price and Toys R Us version of the story. However, the prophets, Jesus and the apostles saw it differently. There’s no mistaking that Jesus, for instance, believed Noah was a real person and that God actually destroyed all the inhabitants of the earth, save Noah and his family, by flooding the planet with water as the book of Genesis records.
In fact, Jesus linked two historical events in biblical history. He talked about his Second Coming happening at a time in the future that looked much like the “days of Noah.” Read Matthew 24:37-39 slowly and carefully,
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Jesus speaks of a day yet to come when his return to earth will take indifferent people by surprise. Evangelists and preachers like Noah will have been warning of impending judgment. But people who are busy living their lives will ignore the proclamation of truth right up until the time judgment falls again upon the earth, this time by fire, according to the apostle Peter,
By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:6-7).
What sobering words these are from the apostle. If Noah’s Ark is a toy story, so too is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the judgment by fire that follows. But Noah’s Ark is no “once upon a time” tale. Thousands of years ago a real disaster took place that changed the world forever, and another one is on its way. Are you prepared? Are you onboard the “ark of salvation?”
Good theology might not contribute to the bottom line of a popular retail store, but it’s always better than a toy story.