God, Water, and Us
In the beginning of the biblical story, we discover that the God of Israel is the creator. Throughout the rest of the story, God is at work within the creation to accomplish His purposes. One of the primary ways that God brings about His restorative work in the world is through the use of water.
At the crossing of the Red Sea, for example, God brings about a new beginning for His people.The old way of Egypt is drowned and destroyed as God’s people begin their journey toward their promised land. As the people pass through the water, they are expressing obedient faith in the future that God has prepared for them. This is the point being made in 1 Corinthians 10:2, where we read, “they all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
Even before the crossing of the Red Sea, God used water to bring about newness. This being the case, the letter of 1 Peter connects the flood to baptism into Christ. It says that, “the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
The flood is an event of new creation. It is not a creation out of nothing as in the case of Genesis 1 and 2, but it is, nonetheless, a new creation. This is why the language of Genesis 9 recalls the words originally spoken to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’” (Genesis 9:1). Following this, Noah and his sons are told, much like Adam were told, that, “in the image of God He made mankind” (Genesis 9:6). The flood is meant to destroy, but it is also meant to create.
The biblical theme of new creation through water persists into the New Testament. Baptism connects to the overarching narrative of the Bible. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We also read in Galatians 3:27, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
The story of the Bible is one of God working to bring about new life in those places where disobedience has brought about death, decay, and despair. The path that leads to life is not just the best possible destination. It is the best possible journey to be on, as well.