Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion

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Now that all nine Vignettes, or mini-stories, in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story have been presented, you might be thinking that the time has come for us to leave Stage #1 and press on to Stage #2, where the second scene in our production is waiting to get underway.  However, before we can move on from here, there is still the matter of our critical analysis of Vignette #9, which has yet to be completed.  Given that this particular Vignette was packed with a lot more action than most of the previous ones, there will be a considerable amount of material for us to discuss; so let’s not waste any time changing into our Critic’s Hat and getting this challenging critique underway. The episodes from this Vignette that we will be focusing on are…

Noah’s Drunkenness;
His Blessing and Cursing;
The New Characters Introduced into the Story; and,
The Rebellion Taking Place at Babel.


Noah’s Drunkenness 

I don’t know about you but if I had been unfamiliar with this particular episode in Noah’s life, I would have been surprised by behavior so seemingly out of character for such a perennially pious hero as he.  After all, up until this point in our story, Noah has lived for well over six hundred years without a blemish on his scriptural record.  He has maintained his integrity while living in a thoroughly corrupt society, even in the face of ridicule, persecution, and personal loss; and, he has remained obedient to God before, during, and for some time after the Deluge which had completely destroyed the world he had known before.  So, what could possibly have driven him to drink at this point in his life; and, why is this lapse in his behavior significant enough to be recorded for us here?

Some have speculated that due to the vastly different environmental or atmospheric conditions existing before the Flood, grape fermentation would not have been possible; implying that, without any previous experience with the process, Noah would have been ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the wine that it produced.  But this may not have been the case at all; for, even if winemaking had been a possibility before the flood, as a man on a mission for God, Noah may have been so focused on the completion of his task that drinking wouldn’t even have been a consideration.  At this stage in his life, however—as a man without the sense of purpose he once had and with so much time on his hands—he may have resorted to drinking in order to fill this newly created void in his life.

Of course, there could have been a number of other reasons to account for his lapse at this juncture.  Since no mention has been made of Mrs. Noah since her departure from the Ark, it is altogether possible that she has already passed away; a circumstance which would certainly have left Noah feeling sad and alone, and in a state of grief over her death.  Or, it could have been that he was just feeling old, tired, and discouraged, or maybe even a bit disappointed in the way some of his children or grandchildren were turning out.  Since no one really knows for sure and since the scriptural record neither condemns nor tries to justify Noah’s behavior—it must have been recorded for some other reason.

Perhaps, it was included as a warning to us that even the righteous “Noahs” in this world are still sinners and capable of falling victim to temptation at any time; or, maybe it was merely to serve as the catalyst for, or as an explanation of, the curious events which were to follow.  I say “curious” because, just as we could not have predicted that Noah would end up in a drunken stupor, there was no way that we could have imagined that the godly man who had gone to such great lengths to secure the deliverance and safety of his family during and after the Flood would so soon afterward be cursing one line of the descendants within that family.  So, let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can get a better idea of what this blessing and cursing was really all about.

Noah’s Blessing and Cursing 

According to Dictionary.com, to bless means to consecrate or sanctify by a religious rite; to make or pronounce holy; or, to request the bestowal of divine favor on something or someonewhile to curse is to express a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a particular person or group.  And, in our travels through the Word thus far, we have witnessed several occasions when God carried out these very actions in regard to His creation.  For…

Noah's curse

Noah damning Ham, 19th-century painting by Ivan Stepanovitch Ksenofontov

  • In Genesis 1:22 and 1:28, He blessed both the living creatures and the man and woman with fruitfulness;
  • In Genesis 2:3, He blessed and consecrated the seventh day and set it apart as holy;
  • In Genesis 3:14, He cursed the serpent because of his involvement in the fall of man;
  • In Genesis 3:17, He cursed the ground because Adam listened to the voice of his wife and ate from the forbidden tree, instead of obeying God;
  • In Genesis 4:11-12, following Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, God cursed Cain’s ability to derive a living from the land; and,
  • In Genesis 9:1, after their departure from the Ark, God blessed Noah and his sons with the same blessing of fruitfulness that He had bestowed upon Adam and Eve.

In other words, in each of these circumstances, God decreed—or, issued “…a formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law”[1]—either a benediction or bestowal of good things, or a malediction of evil in response to someone’s offense or sin.  When we come to the pronouncements of Noah, though, we find that his blessing and cursing, unlike those righteous decrees of a holy God, take on the form of prophetic utterances—that is, they become the divinely inspired foretelling or predictions of things that are to come.  We find these prophecies or predictions in Genesis 9:24-27, where we read…

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son [Ham] had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan [the youngest son of Ham]; 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, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.’

As an aside here, when we compare the circumstances surrounding Noah’s “Fall” with those of Adam and Eve’s “Fall”, we find the following interesting parallels…

Adam versus Noah
I tend to think that when Noah awoke and learned what had happened earlier, he was not at all surprised to find out who had done what.  Having lived with his sons through thick and thin for over a hundred years, he surely had to have developed a keen insight into the nature of their individual personalities.  In fact, it was his discernment of these natures which lead him to “curse” and “bless” them in the way that he did.  And, while it might seem to us that he was making a mountain out of a molehill, if we are going to understand the significance of his blessing and cursing to our story, we will need to make an effort to view this situation from his perspective.   Probably the best way to do that is by answering the following questions:

  1. What did Ham do that was so bad that it provoked a curse from his father?

While it may not seem like a very big deal to us, especially in our nudity-saturated and authority-rejecting society, Ham’s reaction to his father’s embarrassing display would have been a major faux-pas during his time.  That’s because, instead of showing respect for his father by compassionately and discreetly covering his nakedness—as his brothers later did—he apparently reveled in the fact that this man of God had “finally” fallen.

This reaction is very telling; for although Ham had been “saved” from the Flood, just like the others in his family, his response to his father’s drunkenness exposed a decidedly carnal nature in him—one in which…

  • He showed no respect for his father as the spiritual head and high priest of his family, and as the one who was chiefly responsible for his own salvation;
  • He extended no grace to his father, but seemed to take delight in his failure; and,
  • He demeaned and ridiculed his father to his brothers, and possibly to other members of the family or camp.

In short, he failed to respond to the situation in a way that honored both his father and God—which was, in the way that Shem and Japheth did.

2.  Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham?

Although this question has long been a puzzling one, of the several explanations which have been put forth, the two most frequently offered appear to be these…

  • That in recognition of an already obvious proclivity to sin in his grandson, Noah’s curse was actually the prediction of (and therefore the justification for) the eventual judgment and destruction of the Canaanites at the hands of the Israelites, as ordered later by Moses in Deuteronomy 7:1-3; and,
  • Noah cursed his youngest son’s youngest son because Ham, in Genesis 9:1, had already been blessed by God.  From an incident recorded later in Numbers 22-24, we learn that when a prophet-for-hire named Balaam, was paid by the King of Moab to curse the Israelites, he was compelled by God to bless them instead.  His explanation for this bizarre behavior is found in Numbers 23:8, where he tells the King of Moab…

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?

Based upon this, then, it would seem that once anyone or anything has been blessed by God, he, she, or it cannot afterward be cursed by man.

Undoubtedly, a lesser known but much more reasonable explanation has been posited by Arthur Custance in his book, Noah’s Three Sons, where he explains that…

“It is a common social custom among many primitive people to attribute the greatness of a son to the father, who then receives the honor for having raised such a worthy child.  This is clearly reflected in Scripture where Saul seeks to honor David after the slaying of Goliath.  He asks his general whose son the lad is (1 Sam. 17:55)… Undoubtedly Saul knew David well enough, but evidently he did not know who his father was.  It was his father he was seeking to honor according to social custom…A man in blessing his own son was in fact blessing himself.  This was true when Noah blessed Shem and Japheth.  By the same token, however, if he had cursed Ham, the real offender, he would at the same time have been cursing himself.  Quite logically, he could only pass judgment upon Ham by cursing Ham’s own son, which is what he therefore did.”[2]

3.  Does this mean that when Noah was cursing Canaan, he was in reality cursing Ham, and sentencing both him and his descendants to lives lived in perpetual states of servant-hood or slavery?

While many have interpreted this passage to mean that very thing—especially those who have sought to justify their involvement in the buying, selling, or owning of slaves—it is really a far cry from the true prophetic meaning of Noah’s pronouncement.  For, in designating Ham as “… a servant of servants…to his brothers,” rather than sentencing him to the lowest form of human service, Noah was actually calling on him to carry out the highest form of service to his brothers.  That is, because Ham and his offspring’s interests were focused on the natural, more fleshly concerns in life, they were being given the task of providing for the physical or material needs of Seth, Japheth, and their descendants.  In order to understand what I mean by this, we will have to expand our view of the role that Noah’s sons were to play in the new civilization that about to be generated through them and their children.

You see, in much the same way that an individual person is made up of a body, soul, and spirit, here at the head of this new era in human history, the three sons of Noah were being singled out as the representatives of the collective body, soul, and spirit of mankind, just as it was being launched out into the world—with Ham representing the corporate body of mankind, Japheth representing its corporate soul, and Shem acting as its corporate spirit.  And, as you may recall, back in Another Learning Interlude, in our discussion of the way in which each of these three aspects of man’s nature was to function, we learned that…

  • The Spirit was the means by which God’s Spirit would communicate with man;
  • The Soul, consisting of the mind, will, and emotions, was to act as the means of communication between man’s spirit and body; and, once it made known the will of God to the body…
  • The Body was then to carry out God’s will on the earth while, at the same time, providing for the physical needs of the person.

As this graphic helps to illustrate, in his blessing of Shem, Noah was designating him and those who came from him to be the spiritual stewards of God and His revelation to the rest of mankind.  In blessing Japheth with enlargement, Noah was calling upon God to not only extend this son’s territory but, more importantly, to expand the collective mind and thinking of mankind which Japheth and his progeny were meant to represent.  And, in making Ham a servant to each of them, Noah was assigning him and his children the task of guaranteeing mankind’s physical survival, which would eventually make it possible for the revelation of God to be carried to the ends of the earth.

Noah's Sons
As you can see, at this point, we have only covered about half of the material in this Vignette, meaning that we will need to take a break and continue at a later time with our analysis.  We will, at that time, learn more of how these prophetic utterances of Noah have been fulfilled, and about the parts they have played in the on-going action of our story–so don’t take your Critic’s Hat off quite yet!  Until then, though, here is…

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Tracey Campbell, singing a song by Secret Garden, reminding us that in the middle of a difficult situation, “Sometimes a Prayer Will Do”…

 

[1] decree. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decree.

[2] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 26.

The image of “Noah Damning Ham” courtesy of Wikimedia.com.

 

 

A New World, An Old Nature

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In our recent critique of Vignette #8 in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we talked at length about the many changes thought to have been brought about by the Flood which occurred in Noah’s day.  The ones we discussed were…

  • The change in climate;
  • The change in the landscape;
  • The change in man’s diet;
  • The change in the way society was to be governed;
  • The change in the configuration of the continents; and,
  • The beginnings of the formation of fossils and fossil fuels.
Noah leaving the Ark

Noah and His Family Leaving the Ark

With so many innovations having taken place in such a relatively short space of time, I think that it is safe to say that when Noah and his family stepped out of the Ark,  they stepped into a whole New World.  For all of its power to effect change, though, there was still one thing the Flood wasn’t able to alter—and that was the fallen nature of the eight people who had survived its ravages.  For, when they entered the Ark, they did so as sinful human beings and, when they exited it, they were still in the same fallen condition.  This is the sad truth that will be documented for us in Vignette #9 which, if the flashing lights in the theatre are any indication, is just about ready to begin.

As we settle into our seats once more, with the theatre going dark and the curtains parting yet again, we hear the familiar voice of our offstage Narrator as he announces the inauguration of this whole new era in human history with…

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.  (Genesis 9:18-19)

With this announcement, the lights come up on stage, revealing a rustic scene set in a hilly landscape, with a good-sized tent occupying the center of the stage, and with what looks to be a variety of crops growing up behind it.  To one side of the tent, there is a large grape vine and it is here that we see a much older Noah hard at work, tending to his vines.  Mrs. Noah is nowhere to be seen, so we have no idea if she is still alive at this point—and, there are no signs of Noah’s sons either.

Upon first view, the sun is high in the sky—so we know that it is about midday when this scene begins.  But, as we watch Noah continuing to toil, first with the weeding and then with the harvesting of the ripest of the grapes, the sun slowly sets in the background, letting him—and us—know that it is time for his workday to come to an end.  Tired, dirty, and obviously thirsty, Noah goes to the tent, picks up a wineskin and begins drinking from it.

It is here that our Narrator interjects…

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.  (Genesis 9:20-21)

It is not long after this that Ham appears on the scene, followed at a short distance by his two brothers, Shem and Japheth.  Ham calls out several times to his father but when he gets no response, he bursts into his father’s tent—creating a scene described by our Narrator in the following way…

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.  (Genesis 9:22-23)

Shem and Japheth Cover Noah

Shem and Japheth Cover Noah

With nighttime quickly setting in, the three brothers close up the tent and leave, only to return the next day after the sun has been up for a few hours.  By this time, Noah has slept off his inebriation and is starting to recall some of what happened the night before.  As our Narrator relates it…

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, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”  (Genesis 9:24-27)

Following these rather enigmatic pronouncements, and without any further explanation as to their meaning or significance, the lights dim and the stage goes dark—while our Narrator brings closure to Noah’s life with the following remarks…

After the flood Noah lived 350 years.  All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.  (Genesis 9:28-29)

Thinking that this Vignette is over, we begin to stir in our seats—only to be startled into stillness again by the sudden appearance of three spotlights focused on the front of the stage—with one on our left, one in the center, and one on our right.  We then hear our Narrator as he speaks again…

These are the generations of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.   Sons were born to them after the flood.  (Genesis 10:1)

After pausing briefly, he continues with…

The Sons of Japheth…

…and, as he does, Japheth steps out of the still darkened set at the rear of the stage and moves forward into the spotlight on the left.  Resuming his commentary, our Narrator begins calling out the names of Japheth’s sons

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

As each name is called, a man enters from offstage, walks over to Japheth, and takes his place behind him.  Then, for some reason, our Narrator calls out names of a few, but not all, of Japheth’s grandsons…

The sons of Gomer were Askenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.  The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.  From these the coastland people spread in their lands…

As he does, they, too, appear on the stage and take their places behind their respective fathers.  When the last one is in place, the process is repeated for Ham and, as he is called out to his place in the center spotlight, our Narrator announces that…

The sons of Ham were Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan

These men also take their places behind their father and as they do, our Narrator, calls attention to Cush, and one of his more notorious sons…

The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.  The sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

Cush fathered Nimrod:  he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.  Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.   From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen…

Then, after naming the many sons of Egypt and Canaan, our Narrator calls Shem forward to take his place in the spotlight on the right side of the stage, and begins introducing his descendants in the following way…

To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.  The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.  The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.

Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber.  To Eber were born two sons:  the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.

As the lengthy list of Joktan’s sons is called out, each one takes his place behind his father; and our Narrator concludes this second of the Bible’s genealogical line-ups with…

These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies with their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.           

Immediately upon the conclusion of his remarks, the men who have been standing at the front of the stage turn and circle around to the rear of it, where they take up new positions and assume their roles as Noah’s descendants for next part of our story.  As they do, the spotlights at the front of the stage dim while the lights come up on the rear of it, exposing a brand new set.  In place of the hilly, farmland one depicted in the previous scene, we now see a flat, virtually tree-less plain, full of ditches and mounds of straw.  We also see many men laboring to make bricks for the partially built tower located at the back of the set.

Building the Tower of Babel

“Building the Tower of Babel” by James Tissot

As we familiarize ourselves with this new scene, our Narrator proceeds to explain the activity we see taking place here…

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’  (Genesis 11:1-4)

However, unknown to these men, as these they continue to work feverishly at their tasks, the clamor created by their labors rises heavenward—something which God takes immediate notice of, and a problem that our Narrator alerts us to when he says…

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  (Genesis 11:5)

And, as soon as these words are spoken, we hear the deep, resonant Voice of God as it once again reverberates throughout the theatre…

Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.  (Genesis 11:6-7)

The Lord Confuses the Languages at Babel

The Lord Confuses the Languages at Babel

Suddenly, a warm wind sweeps across the stage and as it does, all construction on the tower comes to a halt.  We watch as the workmen try feverishly to communicate with one another but, when all their efforts prove futile, they throw down their tools and walk away from the project in anger.  It is at this point that our Narrator adds…

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.  (Genesis 11:8-9)

With these words, the stage goes dark, the curtains close, and Vignette #9 comes to an end. As promised, this Vignette has demonstrated that even those who were righteous enough to be saved in the Ark were still  sinners by nature after the Flood; and that, sadly, it would be this fallen nature that these regenerators of the earth’s population would pass down to all of their descendants.

To be sure, there has been a lot of material covered in this Vignette.  What, with Noah’s drunkenness, his curse and blessings on his sons, some new characters added to the Story, and a rebellion at Babel, there will be a great deal for us to critique during our next analytical pause.  So, be sure to put your Theatre Critic’s Cap back on in preparation for what promises to be a very informative session about this often problematic portion of our play.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As the Sidewalk Prophets remind us, all things can and will be made new through Christ…

Image of God confusing the languages at Babel courtesy of www.freebibleimages.org.
Other images courtesy of www.commons.wikimedia.org.

Beginning Again

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When our last Vignette ended—that one being, Vignette #8 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story—it did so on a very high note.  That’s because Noah, his family, and his animal passengers had all emerged safely from the confines of the Ark; the vessel where they had been sequestered for the preceding 370 days, while the rest of the world perished in the Flood.  What made this event all the more memorable was the fact that as soon as these weary ocean-goers were on dry land again, the first thing they did was offer a sacrifice of worship and thanksgiving to God.  And, it was in response to this, that God…

  • Blessed Noah and his three sons;
  • Charged them with the responsibility of multiplying and repopulating the earth;
  • Instituted a new set of rules by which they were to live; and,
  • Promised them that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood, no matter how sinful man might become in the future.

No doubt, these blessings, charges, instructions, and promises went a long way to reassure and encourage Noah and his family about their future; however, I am just not sure how far they went in minimizing the size of the task immediately confronting them—which was to begin life all over again in a new and a very different world.  To help us put the enormity of this task into perspective, let’s take a moment to consider some of the challenges that were waiting for Noah, the moment he was back on solid ground.

The Immediate Challenges Facing Noah

1. The Environmental One  

We begin with the Environmental Challenge because the drastic changes in the climate and in the landscape would have been the very first things that Noah and the others would have noticed when leaving the Ark.  Having left behind a world where there was a temperate year-round climate, and then stepping out of the Ark into the cold, brisk winds, swirling around in the upper levels of Mount Ararat, would certainly have been a novel experience for each of them—and one which must have sent chills through every one of Noah’s 601 year-old bones!

Plus, as they stood looking down from their lofty mountain perch on to the barren plane below—which, in its pre-flood existence would have been filled with people, trees, shrubs, and lots of green grass—they must have all shivered at the bleakness of  the scene which lay before them.  Just try to imagine what it must have been like for them as they stood there, scanning the landscape and, as far as their eyes could see, there were no sights or sounds of life anywhere!  (Although the Bible doesn’t mention this, there may very well have been both human and animal remains still lying around—that is, unless they had all been buried under layers of silt deposited during the Flood.)

If the Ararat mentioned here in Genesis, was part of the same mountain range which is located in the eastern part of present-day Turkey, perhaps the view that Noah beheld was similar to the one which can be seen of the region today.  If so, seeing how little there is to work with even now should help us have a better understanding of the enormous challenge that Noah was facing, as he set out to begin his life all over again in this less than inviting environment.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat Today

2. The Personal One

This, then, brings us to Noah’s Personal Challenge—which was, to try to find an answer to the question of “What do I do now?”  You see, before the Flood, although we don’t know if it was a house, a hut, or a tent, Noah did have a home; he also had an occupation—which was building the Ark; and, as a “preacher of righteousness,” he had a ministry, too.  Sadly though, following the Flood, he had none of these things to fall back on.  Instead, after a lifetime of faithfulness and obedience to God, Noah found himself homeless, jobless, and without any ministry prospects—and, just…

  • How was he supposed to build a home without any trees? Did they pack a tent or bring some extra lumber along?  Did they bring furniture with them, too?  Or, did they continue to live in the Ark for some time after the Flood?
  • How was he supposed to make a living?  With no other people to serve, or businesses or farms to run, how was he going to provide for his family?
  • Who was he supposed to preach to? The only people there were already “saved”!

Wow–what a midlife crisis this must have been for Noah!

3. The Societal One 

Although the first two challenges would have been more than enough to deal with by themselves, probably the most difficult one to meet would have been the third one, the Societal Challenge.  That’s because, at the time Noah and his family left the Ark, there was no society to speak of—except maybe, the remnants of the old-world one which they had brought along with them.  And, from what we can gather about that one, it was a society in which people didn’t eat animal meat; and, because there were no governmental structures in place during that time, it was one in which the people were accountable to no one but themselves.  Yet, here at the outset of their experience in the new world, God was instructing them to discard their previous ways of doing life and to replace them with a whole new societal structure…

  • One in which they, as the former preservers and protectors of animal life, would now begin preying on these same creatures for food; and,
  • One in which the human conscience would no longer be looked to as a means of curbing man’s sinful nature. Instead, God would be delegating authority to man—that is, to them and their descendants—to act on His behalf to insure that human life was protected and justice was properly meted out.

But, how do you go about creating a new type of society when there are only eight people in it?  I guess, the best way to do it is to put the head of each family in charge, and then make him responsible before God for the behavior of those within his immediate household—which, as it seems, is exactly the way it worked out.

The Long Term Challenges for Noah’s Descendants

Given all that they had to deal with upon their entry into this new world, it was probably just as well that Noah and his sons remained unaware of the massive global changes that appear to have taken place while they were in the Ark.  For, not only had the climate and the topical landscape undergone major transformations, but the geology and substructure of the earth seems to have changed so radically during this period that life on the planet would forever after be affected.  The most history-altering of these changes were…

  • The Continental Drift;
  • The Creation of Tectonic Plates;
  • The Development of Fossil Fuels; and,
  • The Formation of Other Fossils.

In order for us to gain a better understanding of these changes and their on-going impact on our lives today, let’s put our lab coats on and take a brief look at some of the science associated with them.

1. The Continental Drift 

Continental Drift

The Theory of Continental Drift

As you may recall, back in “But Noah…” we were introduced to the concept of the early earth’s land mass as being one supercontinent called Pangaea—a continent which subsequently broke up into the seven continents that we are familiar with today.  The US Geological Survey article that was quoted from at the time stated that…

The belief that continents have not always been fixed in their present positions was suspected long before the 20th century…[but] it was not until 1912 that the idea of moving continents was seriously considered as a full-blown scientific theory — called Continental Drift — introduced in two articles published by a 32-year-old German meteorologist named Alfred Lothar Wegener…

But at the time Wegener introduced his theory, the scientific community firmly believed the continents and oceans to be permanent features on the Earth’s surface. Not surprisingly, his proposal was not well received, even though it seemed to agree with the scientific information available at the time. A fatal weakness in Wegener’s theory was that it could not satisfactorily answer the most fundamental question raised by his critics: What kind of forces could be strong enough to move such large masses of solid rock over such great distances?[1]

While an answer to this question wasn’t to be found at that time—at least, not one which would have been “acceptable” to the scientific minds of the day–one was eventually developed which would conform to their evolutionary mindset; a development explained by the Earth Observatory of Singapore in the following way…

The main idea of Wegener and others was that modern continents formed a single landmass in the past. This idea was supported by simple observations like the fact that South-American and African coastlines fit so well, or that we can find the same fossils in similar sedimentary rocks on both continents.

The theory needed an explanation for the continental drift, a kind of engine that would implement the motion of tectonic plates. The continental drift was strongly criticised during the first half of the 20th century, until WWII: during the war, the latest radar technology was used to map the seafloor. Rapidly, evidence pointing to seafloor spreading and effective plate motion was accumulated.

After the war, marine geology was developed…[and the] Plate tectonics theory was then widely accepted among scientists because it relied on hard evidence and could explain most of the modern geological structures (ocean basins, mountain ranges, rifts etc).[2]

Stuart E. Nevins elaborates on this in an article for the Institute for Creation Research

Twenty years ago geologists were certain that the data correlated perfectly with the then-reigning model of stationary continents. The handful of geologists who promoted the notion of continental drift were accused of indulging in pseudoscientific fancy. Today, the opinion is reversed. The theory of moving continents is now the ruling paradigm and those who question it are often referred to as stubborn or ignorant….[Today] The popular theory of drifting continents and oceans is called “plate tectonics.”[3]

2.The Creation of Tectonic Plates 

As previously stated, when the technology which could examine the ocean floor became available, it was soon discovered that the crust of the earth had, at some time in the past, been broken up into large plates.  It was also learned that these plates were and still are in the process of shifting.  However, in keeping with the evolutionary assumptions of the scientists, the theory they put forth “…supposes that [the] plates move very slowly—about 2-18 centimeters per year.  At this rate it would take 100 million years to form an ocean basin or mountain range.”[4]  But, is this consistent with what the Bible has anything to say about the matter?

Again, according to Mr. Nevins

The Bible framework for earth history makes no statement about continental splitting, so it is unnecessary and unwise to take a “Biblical” position on the question. When God created the land and sea, the waters were “gathered together unto one place” (Genesis 1:9), which may imply one large ocean and one large land mass.

If continental separation did occur, the only place within the Bible framework where it could fit would be during Noah’s Flood. The cause of Noah’s Flood is described in tectonic terms: “all the fountains of the great deep broken up” (Genesis 7:11). The Hebrew word for “broken up” is baga and is used in other Old Testament passages (Zechariah 14:4; Numbers 16:31) to refer to the geologic phenomena of faulting. The mechanism for retreat of the Flood waters is also associated with tectonics. Psalm 104:6, 7 describes the abating of the waters which stood above the mountains; the eighth verse properly translated says, “The mountains rose up; the valleys sank down.” It is interesting to note that the “mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4), the resting place of the Ark after the 150th day of the Flood, are in a tectonically active region at the junction of three lithospheric plates.

If continental separation occurred during Noah’s Flood, a host of problems in the tectonic dilemma can be solved…The cause for the ancient breaking up of continents can be explained easily by the enormous catastrophic forces of Noah’s Flood which broke the lithosphere into moving plates which for a short time overcame the viscous drag of the earth’s mantle.[5]

3.The Development of Fossil Fuels 

Although the development of Fossil Fuels was not one of the immediately visible changes brought about by the Flood, it was such an important one that it would eventually become a major factor in the lives of Noah’s descendantsFor, as kids.britannica.com defines it…

 “…a fossil fuel is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth’s crust over hundreds of millions of years.” [6]

In other words, these are the fuels which are being used today to heat our homes, propel our vehicles, and keep all of our industries producing.  And, where did they come from?  According to Dr. Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research, they most likely came from the living matter that was buried under layers of dirt and water at the time of the Flood…

Evolutionists speculate that hundreds of millions of years of slow processes must have been involved, but the details of such processes are very uncertain. Coal and oil can be produced in a matter of hours in modern laboratories under appropriate conditions of heat and pressure. Recent studies by creation scientists have proved that at least the great coal beds (and even diamond mines) contain modern radiocarbon, so must have been formed recently.

Although evolutionists ridicule the idea of a world-destroying hydraulic cataclysm in Noah’s day, that phenomenon really does provide the most reasonable explanation for all these phenomena. “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:6).[7]

The Formation of Coal

How Coal is Formed

4.The Formation of Other Fossils 

As for the formation of Fossils themselves, Dr. John D. Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, explains that they…

…are typically found in sedimentary rock, almost all of which were originally deposited as sediments by moving water. Subsequent processes hardened them into sedimentary rock, as overlying pressure squeezed the water out and the grains were cemented together. Often plants and animals were trapped, being buried in the sediments. As the sediments hardened into sedimentary rock, the dead things hardened into fossils…

The standard evolutionary view is that from time to time over the eons, a calm and placid sea covered what is now the continents. Over the millions of years of living and dying and coming and going the fossils were preserved as sediments slowly collected on the ocean bottom. But is there a better understanding? Let’s summarize.

Marine fossils are found in rock layers which give testimony to dynamic water processes having deposited them….Rather than demanding the conclusion of long ages of uniformity and evolution, the fossils speak of a time when the oceans fully destroyed the continents, employing catastrophic hydraulic and tectonic forces—a flood on a scale not witnessed today. Just such a flood was witnessed in yesteryear, however, and recorded for our edification in Genesis. It was the great Flood of Noah’s day.[8]

What This Means for Us Today 

During this rather lengthy “pause for critical analysis,” we have discussed a number of changes thought to have taken place during the Biblical Flood.  I say “thought to have taken place” because, of the ones we have mentioned, only two have been specifically addressed in scripture—those being, the addition of meat to man’s diet, and the delegation of authority from God to man to institute the earliest forms of human government.

As for the change in climate, which would have taken place once the vapor canopy had been removed at the onset of the Flood; and the change in landscape, which most likely occurred when the underground waters were released from their chambers, bringing about the creation of tectonic plates and the division of the land into continents—these are implied in several passages of scripture, particularly those found in the Creation Story and in those describing the mechanics of the Flood.  And, of course, the formation of fossils and the development of fossil fuels were changes which would have been unknown until long after the Bible was written.  However, the scientific sources cited in our analysis all seem to agree that these changes took place at some time in the past–they just don’t agree on when, where, and how long they took.

While we might be inclined to think a discussion of this nature, about an event as ancient as the Flood of Noah’s day, would have no bearing on our lives today, nothing could be farther from the truth.  For, as you can see from the following chart, each of the changes just mentioned has had a lasting impact on the world in which we live today…

Impact of the Flood

All of these changes should serve as a witness to our modern world, not only of mankind’s past judgment but also of the one to come.  For…

  • Our shortened lifespans;
  • The volatility of the planet on which we live;
  • The abuse and corruption of human government all around us;
  • The exploitation of the earth’s resources for personal profit; and,
  • The audacity of those who use God’s creation to justify a denial of His existence and the Truth of His Word…

…should be daily reminders to us that life is fragile and can be taken away at any given moment–something stated so succinctly in the following verses…

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is yet toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  Who can consider the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:10-12)

[For] just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.  (Matthew 16:27)

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the Ark, they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:38-39)

While the changes brought about by the Flood were many, there was still one that it failed to make–but, to find out what it was, we will have to wait until Vignette #9, which is just about to begin.

Smiley Face with Earphones2No matter how bleak things may have looked to Noah when he exited the Ark, as Michael Gungor reminds us, God was and still is in the business of making “Beautiful Things” out of dust…

[1] US Geological Survey, This Dynamic Earth:  Historical Perspectivehttp://wwwusgs.gov, (August 7, 2012).

[2] Earth Observatory of Singapore, Brief History of the Plate Tectonics Theory, http://www.earthobservatory.sg/faq-on-earth-sciences/brief-history-plate-tectonics-theory.

[3] Stuart E. Nevins, M.S. 1976. Continental Drift, Plate Tectonics, and the BibleActs & Facts. 5 (2).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://kids.britannica.com/search?query=fossil+fuels&ct=ebi&searchSubmit.x=0&searchSubmit.y=0.

[7] Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.  Evidence for Creation: Those Fossil Fuels. http://www.icr.org/article/6349/.

[8] John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2004. Where Are Fossils Found?. Acts & Facts. 33 (7).

 

God Remembers…

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In anticipation of our soon-to-begin Vignette #8, let’s take a few minutes to review the situation that poor Noah was in when our last Vignette ended.  As you may recall he, his immediate family, and a large number of animals were locked up in the Ark—the really big boat he had built at God’s direction—and were floating around on what must have seemed like an interminable sea.

The Ark on the Waves

At Sea in the Ark

This massive ocean had come into being (perhaps I should say it had come back into being) when God released onto the earth the waters which had been stored above and below it at the beginning of creation; an action which eliminated nearly every trace of His original creative work and restored the earth to its initial state of primordial chaos.

We also need to think back to the summary statements of our off-stage Narrator, made just before the curtains closed on Vignette #7, as he sadly reported…

And all flesh died that moved on the earth (Gen. 7:21)…
Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Gen. 7:23)…
And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Gen. 7:24)…

I don’t know about you but if it had been me, by this time I would have been one severely traumatized human being; not only because I had so recently endured the most terrorizing of all disasters—one involving earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, floods, and hurricane-like storms—but, as it was just pointed out by our Narrator, because I and all those with me would have now been cooped up on a boat for 150 days, without any sign of land or end to our cruising in sight!  Certainly, 150 days would have given me plenty of time to ruminate on our situation and to formulate a list of the “concerns” that I would have liked to have presented to God, should I ever hear from Him again.  In fact, if it had been me there, instead of Noah, here are a few of the issues I would have liked to have brought up in my next encounter with Him…

  1. God, what happened to You—where did You go? Did You forget about us?  We haven’t had a word from You in 150 days.  Given the ordeal that we have just been through, couldn’t You have made an appearance every once in a while to give us an update on what has been going on outside of this boat?
  1. Speaking of these 150 days, when I first signed on for this venture, I was led to believe that it would only last for 40 days and 40 nights—roughly six weeks and not the five months which it has become. As You well know, I have already invested a good part of my life, not to mention all of my material resources, in this undertaking; so I don’t think it is asking too much for You to have been a little more upfront about the actual terms of this contract—especially when You know how much I value having a clear “Definition of Terms” laid out for me, with no contingencies hidden away in the fine print.
  1. You see, if I had only known in advance how long this confinement was going to last, I would have packed a lot more clothes and brought a lot more scrolls to read; plus, the boys could have brought along some of their musical instruments to help break up the boredom. During the 40 days that the Deluge was in progress, we at least had the sound of the wind and the rain, not to mention the on-going underground rumblings and convulsions to listen to.  But for the past 110 days, there has been NOTHING to break up the sound of dead air and the monotonous drone of water sloshing up against the hull of the boat.
  1. Finally, about the living conditions here on the Ark, I am very sorry to have to report that they have been a lot more challenging than what I had anticipated. Of particular concern to me have been…

The Water Situation

Because of the foresight that You gave us, we knew to incorporate cisterns into the design and construction of the Ark and, during the forty-day downpour, we were able to collect and store a great deal of rainwater in them.  However, since the rain ended—and since we have been confined on board a lot longer than I had originally planned for—we have been unable to replenish our supplies.  In light of this, and not knowing how much longer we will be afloat, it seems that the wisest course for us to take now is to initiate a water rationing program for the duration of this trip.

The Sanitation Problem

Of course, the rationing of our water will mean limiting the number of baths we can take and the amount of laundry we can do–plus, it will make keeping this huge vessel clean virtually impossible.  When you consider that we haven’t had a really good breeze through here since the rain stopped, and with odor from the animals wafting up from the two lower tiers of the Ark to add to our aroma, the atmosphere in the upper tier where we are living will, no doubt, soon become rather rank.

By the way, about the animals, we are very grateful that once they were settled in their darkened cubicles and the boat started rocking back and forth, they all seemed to drift off into the deepest and most extended period of sleep imaginable—in fact, they are all still sleeping.  I just can’t imagine how we would have ever fed them all, plus dispatched all of their pooh, had they been awake all of this time!

The Matter of Our Diet

As for our food, we have been eating nothing but grains and dried fruit for the past five months and, to put it bluntly, we are getting pretty sick of it.  There are only so many ways these foods can be prepared—especially when you consider that, due to safety concerns, we cannot light a fire over which to cook them.  Mrs. Noah has done her best to be creative but really, our menu is getting awfully tiresome and, after all of this time, it is starting to taste a little stale.

It is not that I am complaining, mind You; it’s just that, while we are so very thankful to be alive—particularly when everyone else on the earth has perished—I felt I should call these things to Your attention, in the event that another flood of this magnitude is called for in the future.  If it is, then You can use this information to make adjustments to the plan, and to work out the bugs in the operation before any such disaster gets underway.  Oh…just an afterthought…in the event that another Ark is ever needed, it would really be nice to have a deck on top so that, when the rain is over, whoever is manning the ship can go out and get some sun and fresh air.  I am not complaining, mind You—I’m just saying…

With that, we begin to hear the sound of splashing water coming from the Stage, and as the curtains open, we see the Ark—just as we left it—bobbing up and down on the waves.  And, as if he had been reading my thoughts, we hear our Narrator open this Vignette with these words…

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.

And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.  The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually (Gen. 8:1-2).

And, as if to let us know that this wasn’t going to be an overnight process, he goes on to add that…

…At the end of 150 days the water had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.  And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen (Gen. 8:3-5).

Noah Releasing the Raven

Noah Releasing the Raven

We then watch as Noah, after waiting another forty days, opens the window of the Ark and sends out a raven which, rather than returning to the Ark, flies back and forth over the waters until they are dried up off of the earth.  Noah also sends out a dove at this time but, when she can find no dry place to land, she returns to him in the Ark.  Undaunted, seven days later, Noah tries the same thing again, only this time the dove comes back to him in the evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her mouth.  While this lets Noah know that the waters have subsided, ever patient, he waits another seven days before sending out the dove again.  This time, however, she does not return.

After this, our Narrator continues with this commentary…

…in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth.  And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and behold, the face of the ground was dry.

In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.  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 animal 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 [after spending 370 days in the ArkNoah went out, and his sons and his wife and his son’s wives with him.  Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark (Gen.8:13-19).

Noah leaving the Ark

Leaving the Ark–At Last!

In another little aside here, let me just say—if it had been me there, instead of Noah, after floating around in a boat with a bunch of animals for over a year, a boat over which I had no controls,  I would have fallen down and kissed the ground, dirt and all–even though I have no use whatsoever for dirt, sweat, or bugs!  I would have been so happy to be back on solid ground again, I would have hugged that dirt until someone came and scraped me up off of it. Once again, I am not complaining, I am just saying…

Noah's Offering Following the Flood

Noah’s Worship and Offering of Thanksgiving

However, on our Stage, we see Noah do something entirely different.  He immediately sets about building a makeshift altar with the few materials he can find, and upon which he proceeds to offer some of every clean animal and bird he brought with him as a burnt offering.  But, while we sit silently, reverently, watching the smoke from the offering rise heavenward, our reverie is suddenly shattered by the voice of the Lord as He utters this all-important promise…

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 (Gen. 8:21-22).

Then, in much the same way that He did with Adam and Eve, God blesses Noah and his sons, saying…

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it (Gen. 9:1, 7).

However, unlike He did with Adam and Eve, God tells Noah that from now on…

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea.  Into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.  And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.  And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning:  from every beast I will require it and from man.  From his fellow man I will require a reckoning of the life of man.  For…whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gen. 9:2-6).

Then, as if this wasn’t enough, God—who had warned Noah of the Flood, who had instructed Noah how to build an Ark for the safety of him, his family, and the animals, and who had protected and provided for Noah throughout the tribulation of the Flood and its aftermath—does one more amazing thing.  He enters into a covenant with Noah—that is, He initiates a contract with him, in which He promises that…

…never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  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. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

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.  This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9-17).

Noah's Rainbow

The Sign of God’s Promise to Noah

Wow, what a wonderful promise–and what a great place at which to end Vignette #8! Before we leave this Vignette, though, let me just say, that with this promise, all of my previously stated “concerns”–you know, the ones that were offered in the event of another flood–can be completely disregarded.  For, while they were legitimate at the time, they are now no longer relevant.  Please keep in mind that I am still not complaining, I am only saying…

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Join the Gaithers as they remind us that in any crisis, as long as we are in the Ark of Salvation, “It Is Well With My Soul”…

 

 

Biblical illustrations courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org/.

The Washing of the World

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Uh-oh…the lowering of the theatre’s lights combined with the rising strains of music from the orchestra pit are telling us that our brief analytical interlude on the high price of Noah’s obedience is over, and it is time for our next Vignette to begin—this one, the 7th Vignette in Scene 1 of Act 1 of God’s One Big Story During our last Vignette, we witnessed God warning His servant, Noah, of a coming flood on the earth, and instructing him to build an Ark, not only for the salvation of his household but also for the preservation of the animal life which would be needed to replenish the earth after the flood.

As the curtains separate yet again, they reveal a huge vessel—one about the size of a modern ocean liner but shaped more like a rectangular box with a lid on it—occupying much of the now well-lit stage.  We also see Noah, standing at center stage once more, looking a lot older and a great deal wearier than he did the last time we last saw him.  If, as conjectured during our last Vignette, it took him 120 years of hard physical labor to complete the Ark, this would certainly help account for the radical change in his physical appearance.

Noah and the Ark

Noah and the Ark

Although we aren’t told if God spoke to Noah at any time during the Ark’s construction, we do hear His Voice now, reverberating throughout the theatre—an experience which once again produces goosebumps in all of those who are in attendance—as He instructs Noah to…

Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.  Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

For in seven days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground (Gen. 7:1-4).

And, as we hear our off-stage Narrator comment once more that…

…Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him (Gen. 7:5)…

Noah Welcomes His Passengers

Noah Welcomes His Passengers

…we watch in awe as animals of every description, all in pairs of male and female, enter from various points around the stage and slowly yet orderly make their way toward Noah and the Ark.  Upon their arrival, Noah’s sons descend from the doorway of the Ark and begin the very tedious and time consuming task of escorting each pair of animals to their individual rooms or nests, and then getting them settled in.

As the animals keep coming and as this process continues, crowds of spectators begin appearing on the periphery of the stage—some standing in groups and talking among themselves, trying to figure out what all this could possibly mean; while others brazenly step forward and begin mocking and jeering at Noah and his family, and at the bizarre scene being played out before them.  This activity keeps up as the lights on stage are dimmed and then relit six times to simulate the passage of six days and nights.

Then, with the arrival of the seventh day, and after the last pair of animals is safely ensconced in the Ark, we hear the Narrator remark that…

…Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature.

They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life.  And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him (Gen. 7:13-15).

Once they are all on board, and with the scoffers outside still crying out derisively—such things as Hey, Noah…

Where is the promise of [its] coming?  For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation (1 Peter 3:4)…

…suddenly, the door to the Ark closes—seemingly on its own—and is sealed up tight by some invisible hand or power.  Those standing around it, not knowing what to make of this, are startled into silence.  Their silence is short-lived, however, because it isn’t long before the ground under them begins to shake; then it starts to rupture, creating gaping holes in the surface of the earth through which massive amounts of steam, dirt, molten lava, and water—tons of water—are spewed into the air.

At this, the people begin screaming and running—some over to the Ark, banging feverishly on its hull and begging to be let in; while others scatter in every other direction, searching for safe places in which to hide.  But there aren’t any places on the ground, because the waters which have been gushing up from underground reservoirs are now spreading out over the whole area.  With these waters rising rapidly and swirling ever more furiously around the people’s feet, many hastily seek out refuge in the nearest trees; while others make their breaks for the highest elevations of the land, climbing up and clinging onto any rocks or hills that they can find.

Noah and the outsiders

The Day of Grace Has Passed

Unfortunately, with their focus fixed on the devastation taking place under their feet, those fleeing have not looked up to see the changes which have been taking place in the sky overhead.  For, in response to the incredible amount of ash, heat, and moisture that has been discharged into the atmosphere, the sky is now almost completely dark, and filling up fast with black and foreboding clouds.  These soon begin to collide with one another and, as they do, the atmosphere explodes as thunder and tremendous bolts of lightning are released into the air.  With every peal of thunder warning of their imminent appearances, one electrifying shock of lightning after another is fired off; each seeming, in its sword-like sharpness, to pierce the fabric of the sky; creating the slits through which water, in the form of huge raindrops, begins being poured out from the heavens.

Over the sounds of the waters gushing up from below and those streaming down from above, we somehow manage to hear the voice of our Narrator as he declares…

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the window of the heavens were opened.  And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:11-12).

The Ark on the Waves

The Ark on the Waves

As we watch the Ark rising along with the water, the scene on the stage suddenly becomes eerily quiet, for the voices of all those who remained on the outside of the Ark have finally been silenced by the deluge.  We sit reverently for the next few minutes, reflecting on the magnitude of the drama which we have just witnessed—the enormity of which is soon reinforced by these solemn and summarizing words from our Narrator…

The flood continued forty days on the earth.  The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.  The waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.  The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.

And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.  Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens.  They were blotted out from the earth.

Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.  And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Gen. 7:17-24).

And, it is with this, that the stage goes dark, the curtains close, and Vignette #7 comes to a very sad and sobering end.

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Travis Cottrell reminds us that even in the midst of the storm, we can remain “Still” and secure in Christ…

 

Illustrations courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org/.

Obedience Doesn’t Come Cheap

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The curtains here at Stage #1, where God’s One Big Story is currently in production, are now opening on Vignette #6 of Act 1, Scene 1 of the Story.  As they do, they reveal a set which, in the absence of any light, appears to be completely empty.  However, when we begin hearing angry shouts, screams, and cursing, as well as the unmistakable sounds of fighting—as unseen fists are meeting with unknown faces in what surely sounds like unrestrained fury—we immediately become aware of the presence of a great many people on the stage, even though they continue to remain invisible to us.

Violence in the age of Noah

“…the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.”

Given the volume of this din, and with what we have so recently learned about the Planet, Population, and Powers at work during this period of human history, we are not at all surprised to hear our off-stage Narrator announce…

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth (Gen. 6:11-12).

What does surprise us, though, is the sudden appearance of a near-blinding shaft of light, streaming from an overhead spot and directed toward the center of the stage—the place where we now see a man standing alone in the light.  As soon as he comes into view, the commotion in the background diminishes enough for us to hear the Narrator once again, as he says…

[But] Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.  Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Gen. 6:8-10).

As Noah continues standing alone in the light, the stage, as well as the entire theatre, suddenly begins to shake as the inimitable voice of God is heard, revealing to Noah the following startling news and very specific instructions…

Spotlight on Noah

Noah Hears From God

I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.  Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.  Make rooms on the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  This is how you are to make it:  the length of the ark 300 cubits [abt. 450 ft.], its breadth 50 cubits [abt. 75 ft.], and its height 30 cubits [abt. 45 ft.].  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 (Gen. 6:13-17).

At this point, there is a brief pause; just long enough for us to wonder what must be going through Noah’s mind upon hearing such an ominous pronouncement.  Surely, he must be questioning what an ark is, what a flood is, and what this will mean to him and his family.  Then, as if to allay any such thoughts—or possible fears—we hear the voice of God say to Noah…

But, I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you and your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you (Gen. 6:18).

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 into 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 (Gen. 6:19-22).

Having finished with His instructions, God stops speaking, and Noah walks off the stage.  As he departs, the spotlight dims and we hear the voice of our Narrator close out this Vignette with…

[And] Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him (Gen.6:22).

With this, the curtains close once again, giving the crew time to reset the stage for the next Vignette—and giving us time to consider just what Noah’s obedience to God’s commands would have cost him. 

The High Price of Obedience 

Although no one knows for sure how long it took Noah to build the Ark, given its enormous size—and the fact that he didn’t have the luxury of (or the electricity for) power tools—it must have taken him many years.  Some understand God’s declaration in Genesis 6:3, “…My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years,” to mean that it would take Noah that long to complete this assignment.  Given the massiveness of the undertaking, the limited number of tools and hands available, the extended life spans of those in Noah’s generation, and the incredible long-suffering of God, this was entirely possible.

If this was so, Noah would have been about 480 years old when he was given this job; which, when considering that he lived for 950 years, would have put him at the midpoint in his life. Since Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about Noah’s occupation prior to this time, we have no way of knowing if he had any carpentry skills or construction experience which would have qualified him for this type of work.  And yet, here at midlife, he was being directed by God to leave whatever vocation he may have had before and take up a new one; one for which he may not have had any preparation, and one from which, for the next 120 years, he would derive no income.  Not only would this job not pay him anything, before it was finished, it would end up costing him a ton of money (in whatever the currency of the day happened to be) for the materials (I can’t help but wonder what Mrs. Noah had to say about this plan when she first heard of it?).

To get a small idea of what these expenses could have amounted to, let’s get out our calculators and do a little math:

  • Using 18 inches as the approximate measure for a cubit, the ark would have measured 450 feet in length, 75 feet in width, and 45 feet in height—a space containing 1,518,750 cubic feet.
  • However, not all of that space would require lumber—only the hull, roof, three floors, interior walls, and doors would have needed it. If these features accounted for roughly one-fourth or 25% of the space, then 379,687.5 cubic feet of lumber would have been needed for the wooden surfaces.
  • Since a board foot of lumber (1” thick, 12” wide, and 1’ long) equals 144 cubic inches of sawed lumber, and 1 cubic foot equals 1,728 cubic inches, then 1 cubic foot (1728 divided by 144) would yield 12 feet of sawed lumber.
  • If the Ark required 379,687.5 cubic feet of sawed lumber, this would translate into 4,556,250 board feet of lumber.
  • Although no one is quite sure what type of wood gopher wood was, it surely must have been a high quality, durable wood—no doubt, one far superior to the pine used for general construction purposes today. However, just for the sake of this discussion, if Noah had used pine for the ark, at today’s price (per Home Depot) of approximately $2.30 per foot, the bill for his wood would have come to $10,479,375—which, when spread out over 120 years, would have amounted to a yearly expenditure of $87,328.13.
  • Of course, these figures do not take into account the cost of the pitch (probably a resinous substance similar to shellac), any wages that Noah may have paid out to hired help, or the food which would be needed to sustain the people and animals on board the Ark for at least a year. They merely help us put Noah’s possible monetary investment into proper perspective.

    Noah Building the Ark

    Noah Building the Ark

As for the 120 years that he invested in this project, any one of the following reasons would have made these years some of the most physically demanding and emotionally and spiritual draining ones of Noah’s life.

  • The work of locating and cutting down the trees, converting them into usable timber, transporting them to the construction site, and incorporating them into the structure of the Ark would have required tremendous amounts of physical strength and ingenuity, not to mention tenacity.
  • With the first of the three sons who would eventually be sheltered with him in the Ark not being born until at least twenty years after he began this project—and since it would be several years after that before they would be old enough to help—apart from hiring extra help, Noah would have had to do the work by himself. Although his father and grandfather were still living throughout most of this period, I am not sure how much help they would have been able to offer him.  He certainly couldn’t have counted on any assistance from his neighbors because, as we learned in our discussion of the Planet, Population, and Powers, they would have been card-carrying members of the society who had rejected God and followed in the path of Cain—some of whom may have even been among those unseen participants in the opening melee of this Vignette.
  • Surrounded as he was by people later described by Jude as those who “…blaspheme all that they do not understand (Jude 10)…” and as “…grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires… loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage (Jude 16)…”—people who no doubt mocked him day and night for undertaking such a foolish project—Noah would not only have been an easy and a frequent target for ridicule and persecution but, because he was living in a violent and demonically-controlled society, his life and those of his family members would have constantly been in jeopardy.
  • Plus, being “…a herald of righteousness…(2 Peter 2:5)”—one preaching to people who, for 120 years, rejected and scoffed at the truth he offered, surely must have caused Noah untold frustration and discouragement; while the knowledge that all of the people he had preached to—some of whom would likely have been near relatives—were going to die alienated from God, certainly must have brought tremendous grief to his heart.
Time and Money

Obedience to God is Costly

So, to recap what we have just discussed, Noah’s obedience to God’s commands cost him…

  • A lot of time;
  • A lot of money;
  • A lot of hard work;
  • A lot of aggravation;
  • A lot of loneliness;
  • A lot of rejection;
  • A lot of humiliation; and,
  • A lot of heartache.

Given the expensive price tag that was attached to it, why did Noah choose to go the way of obedience?  What could possibly have motivated him to give his all to the completion of this work?  For that answer, we need look no farther than Hebrews 11:7a, where we learn that…

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.

And, I think if we could ask Noah if it was all worth it, he would say that it was, for…

By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7b)…

…and the payoff doesn’t get any better than that!

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Here is Don Moen with “Trust and Obey”–something that Noah certainly knew how to do..