I’m a horror movie fan, I must admit. But I’ll take a slasher-movie any day over some of the real-life scary stories that happen. I think that’s why I’m drawn to them–because if I can tolerate Saw, then I can tolerate doubt.
This week in Confirmation, I’m teaching the “Scary Stories” lesson of the year. Confirmation is a time when our students realize that the Bible consists of more than fluffy stories; it’s a book that threads throughout history into our own personal story. And what that means is that sometimes the Bible is scandalous, because we deal with scandalous things in our lives.
One of the stories that confuses me the most is the story of Elisha and the bears. Have you ever heard this story? Elisha was a prophet, and he’s walking along a path. Some youth boys, probably the age of my junior highers (it just makes sense), jump out and start making fun of him. They say, “Hey baldy! Baldy baldy baldy!!!” Like, seriously says that. Then Elisha calls out to God, who sends a pack of Bears from the forest to come out and maul the boys.
I mean, what? Why is that in the Bible? What does it even mean?! Why would this happen? Does this mean that whenever you talk back to a prophet—or a youth pastor—you could get mauled by a bear? That’s difficult to digest.
What do we do when we encounter something difficult and scary in the Bible?
This brings us to the story of Noah. You probably know Noah from children’s church growing up. Once upon a time, God was going to flood the earth. Noah built an ark and put his family and two of every creature on there. 40 days later, a dove brought back an olive branch, and voila! Happy ending!
There’s so much about that story that’s just plain innacurate. But the key verse of that passage is Genesis 6:6-8:
“The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. . .But Noah found favor with the Lord.”
I can’t imagine how God felt: He made us in his perfect image, yet we desired chaos.
Noah is a story about how God loves us so much, that he cannot just dump us. Even thought we’re sinners, we belong to him. Noah didn’t find favor because he was perfect, but because he sought after God with his entire heart.
And that brings us to the most important part: Noah is about the covenant that God made with us; a binding agreement that if we follow God with all of our hearts, He will walk with us. Following God does not mean being perfect, it means that we find our hope in God. And even when we mess up…
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
Life is scary sometimes. But God is with us throughout all of it.