If Noah visited our churches today, I wonder how he would feel.
I trust that he would be delighted that sweetly painted images of animals comfort children in the nursery. He would also wonder at the artistic renderings of his story from wood carvings to teapots with heads of giraffes and elephants coming out the windows of his big ark. He would also be startled by the musical and dramatic retellings of his story. (My family still sings “100 Percent Chance of Rain” from the 1985 children’s musical when it rains. I wonder what Noah would think of “Arky, Arky”?)
Noah, however, may be curious about whether or not we really understand what happened in his life, because it wasn’t really about the ark at all.
We tend to focus our attention on the event, which in Noah’s story was the great flood. Just as the ark is the hard-to-miss solution to the event of the flood, we leap quickly to today’s technology to maximize an event like a meal or a vacation. Today we can order meals from almost any restaurant and have them delivered directly to our door. USA Today reported that by 2023 the online food delivery industry could top $23 billion in revenue each year. Similarly, a valued commodity in our home is the Disney FastPass. This ingenious invention lets you pay for access, moving to the front of the line on our favorite rides.
We gravitate to quick solutions, and our eyes are drawn to the big event. However, there is always a process that precedes the event. As we read and experience God’s story, we naturally focus on big events such as the parting of the Red Sea and Jesus feeding the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. But if we don’t dig a little deeper than WHAT God does, we’ll miss the important lessons of HOW God does it.
God begins working a process in Noah’s life in Genesis chapter 7. Let’s look at the big lessons underneath the big event.
First, God speaks to Noah. We tend to skip this little phrase and quickly get the plan that follows, but let yourself rest here for a moment. Appreciate the reality that God speaks to Noah. God also desires to speak into our lives; God wants to be on a journey with us. He can and will reveal truth and direction to us, but only if we are listening. Noah’s first step in the process was to listen to God. Likewise, God will speak, and when he does we need to be ready to receive it.
Second, God leads Noah in steps; there are clearly defined stages of his journey that unfold. Because Noah was human just like us, he probably wondered, “Why not just skip to the end? Let’s just make this go faster!” But that is not the way of God. It is not about the event at the end; it is about the process of how we arrive and who we are when we get there. Remember that there is a process God is working out in your life. There will be “High Points” and “Hard Times”—big events that mark your journey along the way. But the process is the big picture of transformation.
Third, God gives Noah baby steps, specific actions to take. He doesn’t give him the whole picture or the finished product. Step 1 is to build the ark, and God gives Noah very specific instructions on how the ark should be built. While we may not always receive the same level of detail, we can learn from Noah’s story that we have to take step 1 before we can take step 2—often before we even know much about where we’re going. Take the first step even when you don’t have the full picture. We cannot see everything that may happen over the course of our lives. But we can walk by faith in the here and now through his guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, God moves as Noah steps in faith. After Noah builds the ark, it rains. That was the moment when all the people who were mocking Noah for building a big boat were silenced and Noah’s inner critic was quieted. Noah walked in faith that became sight as the rain fell from the sky. This is the moment when the God-dream of your life begins to become reality.
Fifth, sometimes God does not speak. God did not speak the entire time Noah was on the ark. Life on board could not have been super-easy, certainly not dreamy. From the text we can glean that there were approximately 33,250 square feet for six adults, children and grandchildren, and two creatures of every kind. And they were all together for a long time. While it says the rain fell for 40 days, scholars believe they were on the ark for 375 days! God had Noah spend an entire year of his life on the ark, living the process and trusting there will be another big event in the future. Sometimes God has us in the same place. We need to be willing to stick with what he’s called us to do even when he seems to have left us alone.
Sixth, God had a promise for Noah’s life. God was faithful and dried the earth. Then he set the rainbow in the clouds as a stunning reminder that he had a plan and dream for Noah’s life, Noah’s family, and the whole human race. At the same moment, Noah brought his imperfect and broken-down self to the altar. Likewise, when we worship God, we thank him anew for having a dream for us. Worship is a place of grace for failures and a place of gratitude for the life journey God gives us.
The big takeaway is to give glory to God! Noah built an altar to God, not to the ark. The ark was just a tool in the process; humankind was not saved by a boat, but rather by a loving and faithful God who desires to live in a covenant relationship with us. At Younique, we equip you with dozens of tools to get the most out of the journey of life. But the tools are only there to fuel transformation, which comes as you hear God’s voice, experience your story, and obey him.
If Noah came to visit today, I think he would be gratified that his life brings us joy in the form of art and music. But I think he would also ask us to look beyond the events in the story of the great flood to the process God used to bring us to the rainbow.