Noah: LESSON 5: Finally…

I am so thrilled to be ending this series on Noah.  I know I shouldn’t say that, because it was my own decision to start this, but seriously, I am so glad to not read about Noah anymore.  It’s been tough and challenging for my  soul.  I have resisted learning from it and applying it to my everyday waiting.  Finally, today I get to read about Noah getting off the boat!  Yay! No more waiting!  Surely, there won’t be a hard lesson with this one, right? 😉

Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”  So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.  While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease”  (Genesis 8:15-22).

Finally, Noah and his family are allowed to escape their waiting.  Finally, they are out of that stinkin’ ark.  Finally, we see the worship and praise of glad hearts that are relieved to be done with the waiting!  We finally get to the words that we have grown to associate with the story of Noah.  Finally, it’s starting to sound like the Sunday School felt board of my youth.  Now, all that’s missing is the colorful rainbow.

Ahh…there it is, FINALLY, in verse 19 of Genesis chapter 9: “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

We love to hear of God’s covenant…especially when it’s a promise to not destroy the earth in a horrific globe consuming torrential downpour.  We love to rest in the beautiful imagery of a magical rainbow filling the skies, with a felt cutout of a white bearded Noah underneath, standing on a green oval next to a pair of elephants.  This is what we remember when it comes to Noah.  This is what we are taught as children: God loves us and makes promises to us.

But we aren’t taught as children the bits of the story that are uncomfortably long and annoyingly difficult to swallow.  We aren’t taught the whole story.

Yes.  God’s promise here with the rainbow is good…real good…some of His finest work.  He’s spectacular in the role of promise maker and covenant keeper.

But, that’s not the conclusion of the Noah account.

“The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.  He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.  Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.  When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,  he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
 He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
 May God enlarge Japheth,[d]
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”
After the flood Noah lived 350 years.  All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died” (Genesis 9:18-29).

WHAT THE…!??!?!

Even if it were socially acceptable to have a naked and passed out felt Noah, I’m sure we would refrain from retelling this portion of the story to our children.  Why?

Because it’s not a dreamy rainbow…and it’s an inappropriate scene…

Noah was about the closest thing to a celebrity that could be found in his day.  The people of the whole earth came from him.  Noah was channel 6’s citizen hero: He saved cute kitties and endangered salamanders during the massive flood.  Tweet: Noah was channel 6's citizen hero:He saved cute kitties & endangered salamanders during the massive flood. #NOAH #FINALLY #HeIsGoodIAmNOT He was the one wise enough to fashion an ark, brave enough to load it up with two of every kind, patient enough to outlast the waters.  (He would have done great on Survivor).  He was a legend, a war hero.  And that’s exactly where we like to leave the story hanging: with the legend given a promise by God left to re-populate the earth.

But he fell.  Hard.

Instead, we are left with a picture of a drunk old man, filled with shame and embarrassment, who lashes out in anger against a grandson.  (A grandson, who didn’t do anything wrong, but whose father disrespected Noah by telling his other sons about his drunkenness.)

So here it is…the kink in my rainbow.  I thought we’d finally get to the sunshine and moonbeams of the Noah story, only to be left with the nastiness of our human nature.   God is so amazing and faithful, making the firmest of promises to his people…and then his people act like thisnasty.

Noah is no different than you and I, no different than the Israelites who turned to worthless idols, no different than the disciples who abandoned Jesus in the garden.

The hard lesson:  God is so faithful, and I am NOT.

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking I’ve got the stuff of legends, especially biblical legends, or at least that it’s somehow attainable.  I want to believe that by digging into these famous people, I will learn the secret to waiting, to patience, to faithfulness, to thankfulness, to joy, etc.  I trick myself into believing that I, like Noah, Moses, Ruth, Esther, Peter, Paul, will be swept up in a tale of adventure and transformation to be repeated for generations to come.  I put my hope in gaining all the favorable characteristics of the “greats”…whether their passion, their perseverance, their faith, or their legendary adventure.

But when I read the fine print of every story, I see that they all bear testimony to the weakness of our humanity, to our frail nature, our wishy-washy-ness, and our faithlessness.

Noah reminds me that 1) yes, God makes a covenant to the world that never again will He destroy the entirety of it with a flood, and 2)

God has to make rainbow promises because He’s got every good reason to be done with us.Tweet: God has to make rainbow promises because He's got every good reason to be done with us. #NOAH #FINALLY #HeIsGoodIAmNOT

I find my stomach churning nightly during the evening news.  Human trafficking runs rampant, hidden slavery joints tucked away in nearly every other shopping strip mall on the way to my children’s school.  Social media lights up when the next superstar pastor is caught in infidelity.  Our country rallies around athletic heroes arrested for spousal abuse or after being found overdosed in places of ill repute.  I find myself yelling, once again, at my child who wants nothing more than to spend time with his momma, but my selfishness turns me against my own flesh and blood.

I am just like Noah.

God has every reason to wipe me out.  He has every reason to annihilate this world full of people who can’t seem to get it together.

We are a bunch of Noahs, who don’t know our gluttonous selfish limits and breathe curses when our sin is bled out naked for all to see.Tweet: We are a bunch of Noahs, who don't know our gluttonous selfish limits & breathe curses when our sin is bled out naked for all to see. #NOAH

But we have a God, who in His great love makes covenant after covenant with HIMSELF on our behalf. Tweet: But we have a God, who in His great love, makes covenant after covenant with HIMSELF on our behalf. #NOAH #FINALLY  “The Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth'” (Genesis 8:21).

He reminds HIMSELF, that though what we deserve is eternal death, the truly just thing is to remain faithful to His promises.

That rainbow…it’s not a covenant reminder for us, it’s a reminder for HIM.Tweet: That rainbow…it's not a covenant reminder for us, it's a reminder for HIM. #NOAH #FINALLY #HeIsGoodIAmNOT

“When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh” (Genesis 9:14-15).

I am floored.  I am Noah.  I am drunk and passed out, unworthy of such a promise.  His covenant is so good, because we are so NOT.Tweet: I am floored. I am Noah. I am drunk and passed out, unworthy of such a promise. His covenant is so good, because we are so NOT. #NOAH

It’s not about how great Noah was for all his years of waiting.  The point is not to assess these biblical greats as impressive, or dare I say, to encourage myself to be more like them.  The point is that God is the one who is above all and through all the hero, the legend, the impressive one.  So yes, in the end, FINALLY, we get to the good part, though still a hard pill to swallow when chased with my selfish pride …HE IS FAITHFUL.

Post series: NOAH…LESSON ONE: Invisible isn’t ineffective

I’ve been reading through the life of Noah repeatedly over the past week or so.  As I’ve been reviewing the account found in Genesis 6-9, the finer details are unsettling to me.  They’ve been messing with me.  There are so many lessons in the life of this one man.  Honestly, it makes me a little frustrated with him.  Noah’s rocking my world.

I thought I’d share some of these lessons with you in today’s post.  But as I began to type, I uncovered more and more golden bits hidden in these 3 chapters.  So it looks like I’m writing a multiple post series on the man, Noah.  Through this one story, my heart is not only being convicted, but also being led to a new richness found in God’s character.

Most of us, whether Jesus-follower or not, have heard the main details of this story:

God told Noah to build an ark.

He obeyed.

He put lots of animals aboard.

It rained…like forever.

He got stuck on a mountain.

God invented the rainbow.

Or something like that…

LESSON ONE: Invisible isn’t ineffective.

Genesis 5:28-6:9

First of all, let’s just look at how old this guy was when he fathered his first child:

“After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Gen. 5:32).

500 YEARS!

I realize that the human lifespan was dramatically longer back then, but that is a ridiculously long time in the world of family planning.  This is the first we hear of Noah, except that his father was comparatively a spring chicken at 182 years old when he was born.  Therefore, we can only assume that those first 500 years of Noah’s life were not noteworthy.

This is where Noah begins to rock my boat.  I can hardly last 20 minutes feeling I’ve no purpose or significance.  If I’m “wasting” time, not getting something done, or not working towards a goal of some sort, I feel lost.  I feel slothful.  I feel irresponsible.  I feel without purpose.  I feel invisible.

Noah was invisible for 500 years.

Sometime during Noah’s invisible life, the world went crazy…like Spring-Break-Nephilim-(giants)-Gone-Wild type of crazy.

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

Yet, in the midst of that, Noah remained righteous and faithful.  Genesis 6:9 says,

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”

While he didn’t do anything noteworthy, he remained faithful in very difficult circumstances…blameless.

Noah’s blameless invisibility had great purpose.

God doesn’t keep Noah out of the pages of Scripture forever.

God is so disappointed in the evil ways of the people, that He’s willing to blot out mankind and hit the restart button.  But, Noah, through his blamelessness finds favor with God.  He has remained invisible, yet faithful.  God shows his compassion to the world through Noah.  This is a foreshadowing of Jesus, who saves mankind from sin and death because of His righteousness.  Jesus, the only man to walk the earth and be completely blameless, saved the human race from annihilation by dying on the cross in our stead.

Noah’s invisible years spent in faithfulness effectively preach the Gospel.

Noah needs to sit down. He’s rocking my canoe while I’m at the bow trying to navigate my dreams and desires with a splintered paddle.  I don’t want to be invisible.  I am daily flapping my arms in all directions to gain some momentum, or at the very least, just make a splash.  Whether I’m organizing a closet or serving on a grander scale, the evil motivations of my heart creep in.  I want to be seen.  I want to be appreciated.  I want to have importance and purpose far greater than my current standing or situation.

And if I have to be invisible, do I really have to remain faithful?  That’s no fun.  That’s too hard.  That’s not fair.

Others around me are “sleeping” with social media giants, propelling their platforms and selling their message to the highest bidders, regardless of motive or heart.  It’s very tempting to abandon faithfulness to God’s timing, and turn allegiance to the world’s fast-paced self-promotion.

I firmly believe that God works through His people, building networks of varying talents, to accomplish His work.  I undoubtedly believe that He uses social media to do this. However, I also believe there is a fine line between God-orchestrated opportunities, and man-orchestrated promotion.  Simply remaining faithful, at the risk of being invisible for a really long time, is a challenge.  Noah forces me to ask myself the question:

“Could the Gospel be demonstrated more effectively through my invisible faithfulness, than through a visible stage or amplified microphone? 

Now I get that platforms and promotions don’t apply to everyone.  That’s just my jacked up reality right now.  But invisibility and purpose applies to us all.

Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom who feels hidden under 500 years worth of laundry and dishes.  You are struggling with thoughts of value and purpose.  You are sacrificing big dreams for seemingly little insignificant daily chores.  Could the Gospel be demonstrated effectively through your invisible faithfulness?

Let me encourage you, sister:  Your invisibility is not ineffective.  He is working His message of sacrifice through your daily grind.  That purpose far outweighs current standing or situation.  That is a holy calling.  Remain faithful.

Maybe you are a hard worker climbing the ladder of success.  You’re daily laboring to be noticed and appreciated by producing the next big idea, close the next big deal, or impress the big-time boss.  Perhaps you come home at the end of a long day and wonder, “What did I just do for the past 8-10 hours?”  You are exhausted and feel like every day valuable time is lost with nothing gained.

Ponder on this:  How many fields did Noah likely plow in those 500 years?  500 seasons he had to sow, nurture, and harvest. 500 years worth of toiling and laboring he spent in the heat of the sun.  500 winters worth of wood he gathered.  Through it all, he simply remained faithful.  His faithfulness was more effective than yielding the greatest crop of 2348 BC.  Could the Gospel be demonstrated effectively through your invisible faithfulness?

My fellow tired friend, hear what Noah’s father said as he was naming his son:

“Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Genesis 5:29

Noah would do just that, but 500 years later.  Be faithful in your labor, and know that God will bring you relief…in His time.  Don’t give up on His trusted timing or on doing good.

Maybe you have retired after years of parenting or holding a career and you find yourself lost.  With more time and freedom than ever, you struggle to know if you are spending it wisely.  Perhaps without the children at home, to-do lists to complete, or business reports to write, you struggle to know who you are anymore.  The majority of your life has been devoted to a career or to raising children.  Now that those activities don’t fill your schedule, you find your identity, value, and worth being challenged.  Perhaps your health has begun to limit your physical abilities.  Could the Gospel be demonstrated effectively through your invisible faithfulness?

You, wise friend, have spent a lifetime being faithful with what God put before you.  While your daily work load has changed, Your call to remain faithful has not.  Be faithful with the people He has placed before you.  Be faithful with the message of His love and grace.  While you may feel invisible, you are not ineffective.

This past weekend, my husband shared a message based on the following verse.  (I think God wants us to hear it if He placed it on multiple hearts this week.)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

While Noah was invisible for 500 years, God was using his faithfulness to point to Jesus.  Don’t grow weary of doing good, my friend.  In the midst of tempting escapes and fast-tracks, let us be content to trust His timing and His plan.  Let us remember our greatest purpose in life is to make Him visible, not ourselves.  In due season, we will reap, if we do not give up.

Lent: Day 23 & 24…

Day 23: A good book

On the way back home from our Spring Break adventures, I picked up a book I’ve been slowly reading through.  A good book is hard to put down, but when you can’t even go to the bathroom without your two-year-old knocking on the door and demanding your attention, even good books take awhile to finish.

I am reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamante.  It’s a retelling of the story of Jacob found in Genesis.  It is told from the point of view of his daughter, Dinah.  It is beautifully written and contains such accurate historical and cultural detail, that I feel as though I am walking alongside Dinah on a dusty trail as she dishes her family dirt.  I hear her telling me of God’s faithfulness throughout her generation and mine.

I am thankful for these little escapes into another world, a little getaway from feeling like the toddler police are about to pound down the door.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20-21

Day 24: A pig

Our neighbors invited us to a pig roast this afternoon.  So on this 24th day of Lent, we added a pig.  It was yummy.  Sitting outside in lawn chairs, chomping down on some slow roasted pork in 65 degree weather…seriously, does life get any better than this?  I am reminded that Jesus wants me to have life abundant…I think that includes springtime skies and good food.

I am thankful for neighbors, for pigs, for beautiful spring weather, and moments like these.

“Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.”

Psalm 85:11