Gen. 6.17-18, 7.4, 8.15-21, 9.8-17
Last week God hovered over our mess, informed us of our goodness, and sought us out in our hiding place to cloth us with righteousness. This week God requires of us to see the unseen reality, to be washed up on a mountain of hope, and rest in the promises of a Covenant God.
Let’s begin with this very critical text, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… Now the earth was corrupted in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.” – Genesis 6.5, 11
To be sure there is an unseen reality in the text. There are times when we read the word of God that much of the story is left to our imagination. When we read the story of Noah and his family, we are not given all the details of community problems, Noah’s life or his relationship with God. We can only infer what Noah’s relationship with God was like in the midst of this cultural crisis. And, we are given glimpses of God’s character and his love to through his actions. The Scripture doesn’t go into grand details about God’s character either. The reader is left to surmise and infer what God is like. The text doesn’t go into the nitty-gritty details of what was going on in the world. We are given but a few details to try to grasp the situation. This text requires our holy imagination.
I believe we often stop short of discovering God’s word because we stop at the surface of the story, and we fail to dig into the text to glean the fullness therein. So I ask you today… are you willing to dig a little deeper beyond the obvious to search out the relationship of God and the people of earth? Can we get beyond the children’s story of a boat, flooding rains, and rainbows to discover where it all began?
I believe the story began with a man and his God. Noah and God walked together and talked together. It began with the voice of God speaking and a man listening…even when obedience to the voice of God made no sense, seemed to have no purpose, nor personal gain of any kind.
I believe it all began with a family: a spouse, children, and the extended family. The whole extended family was required to follow God. But the family members were following God without ever actually hearing what God was saying to Noah. They follow out of blind obedience to God’s call on the father who has all the ear-marks of a prophet. I can’t say that I have ever heard anyone preach on Noah being a prophet, but in every way Noah lived the life of a prophet – radical obedience to the voice of God, calling the people of earth to repentance, and living a transformed life.
I believe the task required obedience. When we think about God’s covenants in the bible, Noah’s flood story is top of the list for most of us. The reason it is top of the list is because we see the rainbow in the sky on stormy days. Noah’s flood is often cited as a VBS story. We all know about Noah’s experience is that God destroyed the surface of the earth, and almost everything in. The only thing that survived was the works that Noah offered in the way of obedience to God’s plan.
I can only imagine that the task required great humility. Noah built an ark in the summer when never a drop of rain had ever been experienced. Do you realize the humiliation he must have suffered in his walk with God? Noah obeyed God when it seemed purposeless. Noah gave all his prayers, time, talents, tithes/offerings, and witness. The work of obedience required everything, consumed all of himself. Noah was willing to play the fool and devote all of himself for the sake of obedience to God’s plan to save the world. Noah had to put aside his preconceived ideas about what his life would be like. Noah didn’t get to say to God, “Well, I’m retiring at 67 so this whole flood thing needs to be finished before then. I’d like to spend my old-age doing what I want to do.” Noah’s experience didn’t leave room for personal comfort or lazy pleasure.
Surely the process began with the surrender of Noah’s will to God’s chosen provision. Noah’s bucket list had only one thing in it: obedience to God’s plan. Noah discovered the truth about what it means when people say, “You can’t take it with you.” Noah’s journey required that he leave all his friends, acquaintances, business colleagues behind to die. Noah had to leave behind all the special places that meant something dear to him like a place of prayer where he would meet God in the cool of the evening under the old oak tree so to speak.
Noah would have needed to reach down within himself to release his emotional needs and wants into the hands of God’s transforming work. Noah had to follow God to the absolute letter of God’s plan. There could be no deviation. Noah’s wife wasn’t commissioned to decorate the ark to make it look all pretty with wallpaper and knick-knacks. There was no time for indoor plumbing essentials. There was no room for Noah’s pleasures, wants or needs to be satisfied. God’s plan was completely primitive, outside the box stripped down from any and all pomp and circumstance. We might even say it was organic at its very core.
The decision to follow God necessitated a relentless pursuit to live beyond the cultural norms. Beth Moore has a great book called “Get Out of that Pit.” Many years ago I watched her via her first satellite bible study. She offered a wonderful observation in this book that has constantly been my reminder every day of my life. I have to get up every day and make sure that I am not living in a pit! When was the last time that you evaluated your life in such a way that you were willing for God to show you whether or not you are living in a pit? Many of us do not realize we have fallen into a pit, and we camp out in our problems rather than doing something about them.
Imagine with me… One beautiful morning you wake up, have your breakfast and your devotions, and get yourself ready to leave the house for a great day. In your devotion you ask God to encourage your heart so that you can have a blessed day. In your prayers you pray for the people and the situations you feel are important to you. As you leave your home you begin to think about all the things that are important to you… some negative and some positive, some bad and some really exciting to you. In all your coming and going this morning did it ever occur to you to ask God what God would like for you pray? What God yearns for in this world? What God needs you to do and to be?
Let’s go even deeper into the text.
The world has betrayed its original intent. Rebellion has refused God’s design and order. Atheists, Agnostics, and Angel worship and idolatry has consumed the people. All historic memory of God was lost to the people. Sinfulness became an avalanche that fully disrupted humanity. Punishment for sin increased until it diminished all of humanity came in a flood of God’s tears. A new world emerged in the newly re-created world. God’s long-suffering love (hesed) poured out in culminating blessings until he has no other loving act to do! Through the floodwaters, the past became a compost pile for all future civilizations.
The Adam and Eve original covenant is “refreshed” with the new covenant of promises. The story of Cain and Abel set us up for what is to come in human history. There was sin, murder, disobedience, and overall widespread depravity. Noah’s role in this situation is to save enough of God’s created order to “refresh” the earth, and reintroduce the origin design. Noah’s name means “rest” and that is what he will surely provide for creation… rest (Gen. 5.29). To be sure we have only a few chapters between Adam & Eve and the story of Noah. However, for the world to have climaxed in its degradation hundreds of years would have passed. It certainly takes time for a civilization to develop, deteriorate, and decay. We can hear in the scripture that it was every intent, every thought was only evil continually. To be sure the floodwaters left behind a mark of vibrant colors across stormy skies.
It is critical for us to understand that Noah lived in a real time… a real place… with real people… We see in the archeological history that there were several great flood stories that support the biblical account of Noah. The difference between the biblical account and the historical records is the cause of the flood. The cultural historical records of the era blame the problem on God, but in the biblical account God points the finger at humanities sinfulness. Both cultural and biblical accounts point to a great division in the world’s history from this point forward. The flood changed everything. And, it all began with the realization that there is wickedness in this world.
There are times in our lives when we find ourselves in a place where sin has gotten a stronghold. And, I want to be real honest with you folks, sin happens in the lives of churched folks, too. Churched folks are the ones who know they need salvation, and they come to church with the hope of something better. To be sure Jesus teaches us that the world continues to move toward the same sinful attitudes that Noah experienced in his day!
Here these words from Jesus, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” – Matthew 24.37-39
I know from my own life experiences that sinfulness is alive and well in our midsts. There are many young adults who suffer from prescription drug dependency and illegal drug addiction. Many children grow up in harmful environments of emotional, sexual and physical neglect and abuse. There are youth who struggle with sexual identity issues, suicide, gaming, and pornography addictions. We just can’t afford to bury our heads in our hands any longer. Our communities need our support!
Let us pray our commitment together from John Wesley’s own words!
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.