“‘Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.’ Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:16-22).
There is a man in the Netherlands who had a nightmare in 1992. Johan Huibers dreamt that his low-lying country would flood. As a result, He decided to create a working half-sized replica of the ark that would tour the canals, not to escape a devastating flood, but rather to lead people to see God through the story of Noah. Years later, in 2008, he began a 3-year project to build a full-scale replica. Today, this Dutchman’s “bible museum” contains life-size plastic animals, a petting zoo, a theater, sleeping quarters, a restaurant, and a conference room.
Can you imagine?
“Honey, I had the craziest dream last night.”
“Hmm….”, as she stirs her coffee and rubs her eyes at the kitchen island.
“I think the boys and I should build an ark…We could devote the rest of our life to it’s construction, fill it with animals, and then wait for God to do something with it…what do ya think?”
“Oh, okay, dear…”
Reading the specific directions of God to Noah in the verses above (which included a promise of death), then hearing of this crazy Dutchman pushes me outside my comfort zone. Both men heard God and obeyed.
What has God been asking of me…and am I willing to obey? What if His instructions end with “and there will be certain death for everything around you…”?
Back up…like this man in the Netherlands, am I even willing to entertain my dreams? Am I willing to consider that God has legitimately spoken to me in my sleep?
Lately, our house has been filled with dreams. Early this week, 50% of our children ended up in our room at some point having had a nightmare. Over the past month, both Paul and I have been having dreams…and not flying-naked-down-the-middle-school-hallway-on-finals-week-after-realizing-you-forgot-to-attend-the-class-all-semester kind of dreams.
We’ve been having prolific holy-cow-there’s-no-denying-that-was-from-God kind of dreams. (Now, we haven’t gone all Dutchman on those dreams). Needless to say, Noah, Huibers, and these dreams have been challenging me. They’ve been pushing the boundaries of my belief, my preset limits on God’s modern day communication methods, and my line-in-the-sand markings on reasonableness and comfort.
I’ve often read the end of verse 17, “Everything that is on the earth shall die,” and thought that must have been incredibly scary to hear. How fear-filled Noah must have been! How terrified his wife must have been!
However, this go around, I read the verses above and wonder if Noah was terrified at all. God spoke to Noah.
In the midst of chaos and a world gone mad…God spoke to Noah. He gave him some specific directions. He warned him that it was about to get rough, real rough…like everyone-is-about-to-die-rough.
Rather than be filled with trepidation and fear, I now wonder if Noah was filled with the peace of a grandiose God who was relational enough to speak, give instruction, and give a “head’s up” about what was coming.
Of course, God doesn’t end his words to Noah with doom and gloom. He makes a strange covenant with Noah: “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you”…and then on and on about animals and such. At first glance, God’s covenant looks like nothing more than additional directions. He doesn’t say: “I will save you”…”I will keep you out of harm’s way”…”I promise to never ask you to do such an outlandish and crazy thing ever again.” He gives more instruction. YOU and your family will come into the ark, YOU will gather a whole bunch of animals and food, and YOU will keep them alive.
As soon as God tells Noah to build an ark because He’s about to wreck the place, He “promises” that He will ask more of Noah.
This rubs me all kinds of wrong.
Our family’s midnight dreams of late have not been pie-in-the-sky visions of the future. They have most assuredly included the promise of some heavy lifting and intense rain. Noah was given instructions for monumental manual labor and then told that his neighbors, the trees in his backyard, everything and everyone apart from his family would be destroyed…then he was asked to do MORE! And he still obeyed!
Nowhere do we read that Noah pulled a “Moses” and argued with God to save the people. He didn’t go all “Jonah” and try to escape the responsibility and call laid before him. He didn’t try his own way, fail, and then run away to hide like Adam and Eve. He simply obeyed. He followed the directions and got to work.
Mysteriously hidden in his to-do list from God, in a very ambiguous and implied manner, rests a covenant promise. Therefore, Noah trusted and obeyed.
Here’s my main struggle with this: I want a better promise. I want a clearer covenant. I want to know that after all the building, herding, raining, and waiting I will get to have a little farmhouse away from it all…with cute restored furniture, chickens, and a sweet pool…and my children will all learn to play a musical instrument and have their own band…and our neighbors will trade us homemade wine for eggs. That’s what I want. I want the promises made to me to be as clearly outlined as the details of what is being asked of me. God gave Noah no such promises, just detailed directions.
I want a clean cut covenant that caters to me, not a mystified one that only asks me to do more.
I wrestle with this Genesis passage because God doesn’t seem to work my way. However, He must still be trustworthy, because Noah trusted and obeyed…even when the covenant seemed to promise nothing but more work. I’ve got no resolution to the friction between the promise I want and the promise God gives.
After a month of strange dreams and aggravating Noah study, I am only left with this thought:
If God can push through my pre-drawn conceived notions of Him, than surely He can push past my wildest expectations of Him. Therefore, I trust and obey, even if the only covenant promise I hear Him speak is a command for more.