Based on Genesis chapters 6 - 8
Today's story happened a long time ago. It's a story about one man who listened to God when no-one else would. What he did - made other people think he was crazy. But, because he believed God, when terrible things started to happen - he was ready when no-one else was.
At that time, nearly everyone had forgotten about God, they only thought about themselves. God saw how selfish and evil all the people were - and He was sorry that He’d ever made them. They would cheat, steal, lie and murder just to get what they wanted. God was so sad and angry with them, that He decided it was time they got what they deserved. - He was going to send a terrible flood over the whole earth to kill every living creature.
However, there was one good man, called Noah. God loved Noah and didn't want him to be destroyed when he sent the flood. So God spoke to Noah and told him about a special plan He had to save Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives.
God told Noah that he had to build a very large .......... Well, let me explain. It's like a boat but it isn't exactly a boat. It's also like a very - very large box - called an ark!
And it was to be so big - because God planned not just to save Noah and his family, but 2 of every kind of animal, bird and insect as well - a male and a female. You see God didn't just think about saving Noah. He thought about life after the flood, and a world which needed animals, birds and insects as well as people.
The ark was to have three decks with lots of rooms on each deck, and it was to be a massive 135 metres long, 13 ½ metres tall (that’s as tall as a three or four storey house) and 22 ½ metres wide! God also told Noah not to worry about finding the animals to go inside the ark, as He would send them to Noah at just the right time.
The next day Noah said to his three sons, ‘Go down to the forest and buy this much wood.’
‘What do you want all that wood for Dad?’ one of them asked.
'Well you see son,' Noah started to explain. 'God’s told me to build ... an ark ...' and he told his sons all about it.
However, the town's people weren't so convinced. Why was Noah, building this great big boat-like thing in the middle of one of his fields? Not only that, there were no rivers or streams near by and it was so big that there wasn't any hope of moving it! And what is the point of having a large boat-like thing stuck high and dry in the middle of nowhere?
The town's people started to moan and complain and laugh at Noah. But when he tried to explain why he was building it they replied, ‘You're mad! God's not going to judge us!’ But Noah knew that when God says something, He always does it - and carried on building the ark.
Slowly the ark took shape. And as it did, Noah started to notice unusual animals living in unusual places! After all, it's hard not to miss a pair of crocodiles living in your bathroom, or a pair of hedgehogs nestling on your favourite chair (let's hope he discovered them before he tried to sit down!). God was sending the animals - just like He’d promised! So carefully Noah collected them, and after nearly losing the pigs to the tigers, he made sure he kept them well fed and in strong pens and cages! (PAUSE)
Even with this very obvious zoo appearing in Noah's fields, the people of the town still refused to believe that God was going to judge the earth. They were even ruder to Noah about his ‘floating zoo’! But Noah trusted God and carried on working.
Eventually the day came when all the animals had arrived and all the food had been collected. It was a beautiful day, there wasn't a cloud in the sky! Then God spoke once again to Noah. 'Go into the ark Noah, you and your family and all the animals I've sent to you. In seven days time, I will send rain for 40 days and 40 nights and wipe away every living thing I’ve created.' So Noah and his family obeyed God, and started packing the ark with food and animals. Then, with the ark finished and all the people, animals and food inside. God Himself - the God of all heaven and earth - closed the door of the ark behind them, sealing them inside. (P) And then they waited! (PAUSE)
God's plan wasn’t just to send rain, but to flood the earth with a sudden and violent flood that would sweep away everything in its path. Without warning the rain clouds arrived and burst in torrents on the earth. Most of the town's people were washed away immediately, but a few made it to the ark. They hammered on the side, ‘Let us in! For mercy's sake, let us in!’
But it was too late, God had shut Noah inside the ark and nothing could be done. After a while the voices disappeared and were never heard again. (P)
Constantly, for forty days and forty nights the rain hammered down. The ark, which had once seemed so big, became a tiny speck on the surface of a vast ocean that covered the whole earth. Eventually even the mountain tops disappeared until there was no land at all, only water and the tiny ark with its precious contents of people and animals. - The only people and animals left alive.
Then, after 40 days of constant rain, it was as if someone turned off a tap and the rain suddenly stopped, and God remembered Noah and the animals in the ark. For another 5 months the little ark floated on the water until one day, ever so gently, it came to rest on a mountain.
But even though they’d come to rest, the earth was still covered with water. So after another 40 days, Noah opened a window in the roof and sent out a dove, but it came back to him because it couldn’t find anywhere to rest. (P) A week later he sent it out again. This time it came back with a freshly picked olive leaf in its beak. Another week later he sent the dove out again. This time it didn't come back at all.
So Noah removed the roof covering the ark, and waited another 2 months until God spoke to him once again, ‘Come out of the ark Noah, you and your family and all the animals. Fill the earth with your offspring.’
It was wonderful to be back on dry ground again after so long locked away. The animals raced off to stretch their legs and escape once and for all from that dark, smelly ark. Already trees and plants were growing and there was enough food for the animals to look after themselves. As they streaked away to find new homes and fresh food, Noah and his family also came out of the ark, thankful to be able to leave it behind but even more thankful to God that He’d saved them from the flood.
And when they’d come out, Noah said a very special ‘Thank You’ to God for looking after them all. This ‘thank you’ pleased God and God made a promise, He promised that He would never again judge the whole earth as He'd done this time - even though people were still selfish and evil inside. He promised that the earth would carry on as it should, with summer and winter, springtime and harvest for as long as the world remained. And He gave Noah and his family a special sign to remind them that He would never break His promise. This sign can still be seen today, it's the rainbow! Whenever Noah saw a rainbow, he’d remember God's promise.
And today, when you see a rainbow, you can remember that it tells us that God still always keeps His promises.