So on Friday, I wrote a post that alluded to Noah. And that reminded me of the Noah post I’ve been meaning to write for a while.
See, Noah is one of those Bible characters that I would love to get the chance to interview. In fact, I’d be happy with just one question. I mean, there are probably any number of people I would love to talk to, but if I got the chance to talk to Noah, I’ve had the one question I would ask picked out for a while.
That one question would involve filling in one of those details the Bible leaves out that to me would be awesome to know.
We’re introduced to Noah a little before the main ark narrative begins — we know he was, at some point in time, 500 years old, we know he had three sons, we know he “found favor in the eyes of the Lord,” and we know he “was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”
So in Genesis 6:13, God shows up and tells Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.” And He goes on at some length telling how exactly to build this ark, and about the flood that’s going to come, and what Noah should put in the ark, and that sort of thing.”
And when God finishes with the instructions, we’re told, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”
And the very next verse, Genesis 7:1, says, “The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”
And once again we’re told, “And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.”
So then, of course, there’s a big flood, everybody dies, yadda yadda. But that’s beside the point for the moment.
I’m fascinated by a word in verse 7:1, and that word is “then.”
Because that makes it sound like, God said this, and Noah did it, and then God said that, and Noah did it. Which, I guess, is true, technically.
But in between the two “God said”s is a period that is estimated to be anywhere from 120 years on the unlikely long end to maybe about seventy on the conservative short end.
And I’ve heard any number of preachers talk about what that period must have been like for Noah, in terms of people questioning and mocking him for spending decades building this boat with nowhere to go.
What I wonder, though, is whether what the Bible tells us really was it. Did God show up one day, say “build an ark,” leave Noah to it, and then show up around a century later when it was done, and say, “OK, get ready to load up”?
I can’t imagine what that would be like. Sure, you have a word from God, and that’s a pretty good foundation to start building an ark on. But at some point, do you start to question it? Even Abraham, that paragon of faith, became dubious in less time than that. At some point, a decade or two or five, do you start asking yourself, “OK, how well do I remember what happened? Am I sure that wasn’t just a weird dream? Shouldn’t something be happening by now?” Was there ever a time that Noah kept building the ark solely because he didn’t want to admit to others that he might have been wrong about whether he should be building an ark?
On the other hand, we’re told Noah “walked faithfully with God.” Was that going on the whole time? Did God occasionally stop by and say, “Hey, man, great ark-building! Keep it up!” If so, was that, what? Every week? Every year? Every decade?
There have been times I’ve felt like I’m doing what God wants me to do. And so I do it. But, I’ll be honest, without reinforcement, I don’t think I could spend a century doing it, even if I were to live that long. I’m not sure I could spend even a decade, without reassurance that, yes, this is right. Or, really, a year.
So I would love to know — “What was God doing while you were building the ark, Noah?”
Because, to be honest, it would make me feel a little bit better knowing that there was the occasional encouragement.
Though I still doubt it was as often as I would want it to be.