Going to preach for the first time in big church. To adults and everything. I've been told not to say any fart jokes or say "crap" while praying. I say to leave room for the Holy Spirit's prompting. What am I talking about? The time God said "to hell with it!" and flushed humanity down the drain. Nice. Amazing how pastor Dan managed to be conveniently out of town for this one. Just a coincidence I'm sure...
As I read more and more of it, I am struck with how it is such a modern day story, a story for our time. A world that saw God as the source of their torment. People who indulged in every desire of their heart. A society that recognized no higher authority than themselves. We read that God sees what His creation has become and His heart breaks. His desire in the garden to have a perfect relationship with mankind, a relationship where God can pour out His love and man can respond freely in love; that desire is destroyed once again. We read the all too human words, that God's heart is pained.
As mankind hurtles itself towards destruction, through rebellion and selfishness; God watches as a husband would an unfaithful wife. But unlike the sagas that play out on the 24 hour news, God does not commit a crime of passion. He does not snuff out mankind in a fit of rage, in the blink of an eye. He starts with grace. "But Noah found favor in the eyes of God." Noah was a sinner like the rest, but grace enters into the picture and God chooses Noah to warn and to rescue.
For 120 years Noah preaches righteousness, through his words and through his life. He shows obedience to God and warns of the coming flood. Because of his faith in a merciful God, he obeys. he obeys unflinchingly, without question, without arguing. Because of his faith, his family is saved along with him. As Dad goes, so goes the family.
So many times when we are confronted with the flood, we run away. We see a blood thirsty God, who delights in punishment and will throw aside all of humanity just because He's having a bad day. What we don't see is the warning. Throughout the Bible, God is giving warnings and it points to His mercy. Jonah understood this all too well. He refused to tell Nineveh that God would destroy it because he knew that God desired not their destruction, but their repentance. When Clara, my two year-old redhead disobeys, she gets a warning. "stop or you will go to time-out. I'm counting to 3." If I wanted to punish her, I would go straight to it. Why wait?
God gives the people in Noah's time countless warnings for 120 years and then as the animals line up in the week leading up, they still have time. but no. Only 8 people on board a ship that could hold 52 locomotive cars. It makes you wonder, if Noah could do it over, would he try harder to reach the people around him. As they sat on the ark and listened to the destruction around them, the cries, the pleas, what regrets did Noah and his family have?
When God tells Noah to come out of the ark, he makes a promise. A promise to bring redemption instead of destruction. To rescue man from his sin instead of destroying him. A promise that we live under, that we cling to knowing that these words apply to us "every inclination from childhood on is towards sin". But we have the confidence of knowing how God's promise was fulfilled. We live in a world that has seen the how God took man's failure and took it upon himself in the person of Jesus and paid our penalty, breaking the curse of sin and defeating death in his resurrection.
Like Noah, we live with the same knowledge of both God's love and his holiness. That sin carries with it a penalty but that God desires all mankind to be saved from that penalty. And exactly like Noah, we are faced with a truth that God chooses to carry this message through us. That we are called to be "preachers of righteousness" through both our words and our actions.
So how's your ark coming along?