Did you know that there is some sort of flood story in every mainline religion? Everybody’s got one! And for the Judeo-Christian faith, the Noah’s Ark story brings all sorts of wonderful imagination to our hearts and minds. Just the sheer thought of building something that mammoth, much less filling it with, and tending to, all of the animals begins to make the story hard to believe doesn’t it? Then add the 120 years to complete the project all by a 600-year-old man to boot!
Yet, every one of us has been faced, at one time or another, with having to totally trust God without any idea of where God is about to take us! This is the true definition of faith: to believe or to be sure of something you hope for and certain of what we cannot see.
The reason that Noah and the flood is the 3rd most requested instant replay Bible story is less about the ark and the animals and more about responding in faithfulness, obedience and patience to God. All of us have been, or will be, like Noah during our lifetime. And Jesus is our true ark where those who place their trust and faith in him find safety in hom and his “ark”. When the waters of judgment come, we ride above and are taken to a new place where everything is brand new and we worship our awesome God.
Noah’s Faithfulness: Genesis 6 begins a spectacular story of the destruction of the world – by flood. Evil seems to have the upper hand in the world, yet God found faithfulness in a godly man and his family to start over – to recreate. God still uses godly persons to “grow” up a new generation. Who is it in your family – maybe it’s you! Notice how God was going to “bring” the animals to Noah (Gen 6:20)? Noah didn’t need to go on safari to fill the ark, they would come to him! The promise to the faithful has always been that God will provide what we need, when we need it and how we need it all in God’s perfect timing. Most likely, when God revealed the plan to Noah, the animals who would be passengers on the ark had not even been born yet! God’s plan always begins with faithfulness: God’s faithfulness towards us, and our faithfulness in and to God!
Noah’s Obedience: God reveals the plan and 120 years later, the ark is built, animals gathered and rain begins to fall. God seals the boat as the floodwaters rise and a new journey begins for all inside where everyone and everything has a place. Twice, at the beginning of construction, and again at the end of construction, the Genesis story says that Noah did everything that the Lord had commanded him to do (6:22; 7:5).
How many of us would have had the same thing said of us? It is hard at times to be obedient isn’t it – especially when we aren’t given the full details? I wonder how tempting it would have been to change the dimensions, or some details of the Ark’s design? I wonder how often Noah wanted to give up – maybe because while he was building the ark, according to 2 Peter 2:5, he was also preaching a message of repentance (just like John the Baptist and Jesus did in the NT) to his friends and neighbors – who rejected his preaching message every single time. Some of us in this room have been preaching to others for a long time too – and with no response. You keep preaching! You keep being obedient!
Noah’s Patience: There is food and water for the next 12 months and for the first 6 months they literally float. Have you ever experienced just floating? How many times in our life have we been forced to “float”? Maybe it was a time of transition between jobs, recovery from illness or surgery or a time when the timing for a decision was not right? We have very little control when we float. We are at the mercy of the water’s movement. 120 years of construction, over 12 months of ark time, countless days of the monotonous caring for the animals, daily looking for land under receding floodwaters and the uncertainty of what would happen when he finally left the ark must have made daily life less than exciting. Yet, Noah’s patience persisted. That same patience is tested when following God. Parents and Grandparents know about patience. Teachers know about patience. Students know about patience. Patients know about patience. Christians know about patience!
Noah’s Thankfulness: Finally, land appears and the boat comes to rest. First a Raven and then a dove is released to see if floodwaters have rescinded. Then doors are opened and for the first time in about a year everyone walks on dry land! An altar is quickly constructed and sacrifices offered. God speaks again to Noah. God tells Noah to multiply – he said it twice. Fill the new earth – reproduce. God tells us to do the same thing even today – reproduce faith in others. God gives permission to eat meat, but only those who have reproduced. God promises to never again destroy the earth by floodwaters again. God’s covenant is offered to every generation to come as well. God is limited only by God’s own promises or covenants.
From that day forward a rainbow will remind us and God of God’s covenant with us. Every person who sees the rainbow will be reminded of that covenant. I don’t know about you, but rainbows still capture my imagination. Whether very colorful, or just a faint image in the distance, I’m getting up to look. I saw the most magnificent rainbow over the Sea of Galilee in 2012. Took a picture – but that rainbow is still deeply burned in my memory! God’s covenants are powerful things! A relationship with humanity is God’s ultimate desire. God pursues us even when we doubt or even question if God is real.
But all of this came about AFTER Noah and his family made an altar and offered sacrifices. Noah’s actions were a sign of faith, obedience, patience and thanksgiving. In the beginning, Noah must have wondered about how all of what God said would turn out – he did not know the final outcome when he responded to God’s command to build an ark. His faithful response brought about the salvation of humanity and all other living creatures. He didn’t know how God was going to do what God was going to do – but he trusted God anyway.
Like Noah, we’re invited to trust God and obey God even when we don’t know how God is going to do what God is going to do with us and through us. It is in the floating times of life that we learn to trust God even when things don’t make sense. We just might discover those floating times were exactly what we needed for God’s timing to bring about God’s plans for our life. Happy floating!