This article is part of a limited series called Be A Man. These articles are taken from a Bible study I conducted for several months. The purpose of these blogs is to examine and discuss what it means to be a man, a husband and a father according to the Bible, and how we are to live that out in our modern world. While the Bible study was originally for men, not all topics are gender specific, meaning that women, wives, and mothers can still learn and be encouraged from these articles.
The story of Noah and the ark is a famous one. Church going children and kids that haven’t been raised in a Christian community know it the same. They may disagree about some facts, such as the number of animals that were on the ark, or the shape, or whether the story is factual or a cultural myth, but there is no disputing the popularity of this children’s story.
Sadly, this has become a children’s story. I don’t know why or at what point this tale of the Great Flood became solely one for the kids. There is so much truth woven into the account that adults would be foolish not to dive into it.
Because even in such a story there are wonderful and instructive things for us to learn. And in this case, there are two ingredients that we are to have as Christian men that will season our lives for the better. Just as you season meat to give it flavour and to keep it fresh for long periods of time, so the Noah account has ingredients for us to use to season our lives to sustain us and give our lives spiritual flavour.
“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in. For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. ” Genesis 7.11-8.4
Seasoning #1: HUMILITY
The first season that we need to have in our life, the one that I am sure prevailed in Noah’s life is humility. We need to live a life that is seasoned with humility. Noah certainly had reason to be humble.
When you move past the cutesy childish version of the Noah and the Ark story, and look at the details, and you let your imagination put flesh to these words, this is a much more terrifying story. This would be closer to a horror story than a bedtime one.
We may get caught up in the details and derail ourselves from feeling humble. People often argue over the amount of water. They discuss whether it was a regional flood or a global flood. And while I am not discouraging these discussions, I think we miss something profound and powerful; the water.
In 2011, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami rocked the world with its quiet, yet powerful devastation. Buildings washed away. Foundations were wiped out as easily as a person can wipe away chalk from a blackboard. The lives of almost 16,000 were snuffed out in an instant. Over 6000 people were injured and some 2500 were recorded missing.
The aftershock of the earthquake and tsunami were, and still are, widespread. With so many buildings and homes destroyed, over 228,000 were left trying to find a place to sleep at night. Because the tsunami affected the whole island of Japan, 4.4 million households, not individual people, were without power, and 1.5 million households went without water.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan.”
For those of us that lived elsewhere, we could only watch in horror from our screens at the great devastation that Japan suffered. What made it more painful was all that, and much more, was done in 6 minutes.
6 minutes and the World Bank estimated that this was the most costly natural disaster ever, costing an estimated 23.5 billion US dollars.
It is awe inspiring that water can do that. Something that we sit in for comfort, something that we splash on our faces when we are too hot. Something that we use to give life to our lawns, or make our cars look better; it has the power to completely cripple a nation in 6 minutes.
When I think about the story of Noah, the details inform me that it was more than 6 minutes of disaster. 40 days of rain, and 40 nights of rain, and it did not slow down or let up. And after it rained, only 8 people were alive on the earth.
The Noah story, even the recent tsunami in Japan humbles me. It makes me ask these questions, questions that very much put me in my place.
Who am I, especially when I compare myself to the might of God’s creation?
I can’t stop a tsunami. Numerous videos and tear-filled stories from Japan confirm the reality that no one can. It is a power much great than us. Though we think that we are strongest, the mightiest, the ones on top, the shapers, and crafters of the earth, we are nothing when water starts moving. Our kingdoms, our legacies, our name, all that becomes rubble that is washed away and forgotten when faced with the terrifying might of water.
The story of the Great Flood puts us in our place, a place of humility. That is something that we need to remember everyday, because it is quite easy to ignore the fact that we are not the powerful.
But it is not only water that we need to be humbled by but also the Creator of such water. The God of the Water is far more powerful than the human mind can perceive. If we show anything respect, if we are humbled before anyone, it should be before Almighty God.
It was God that commanded the water to fall for the Flood. It was God that had the power to start and stop the rain at His will. It was God alone that could make the waters move higher and higher so that the tops of the mountains were covered.
How foolish we would be if we ever thought we were greater than He. Or that He had no power, no authority, no right to do or interfere with our lives. The great power and might of our God wasn’t even flexed when the universe was formed. He spoke. He spoke, the power of His words gave life to everything that exists around use. Imagine if He decided to move His arm. Or stand up from His glorious Throne. What would happen then?
We are nothing in the light of God. The patriarch Job said it best, when he was faced with the awful power and might of the LORD.
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42.2-6
Before an Almighty God, Job, a wise and righteous man realized that he was nothing. And the right and best response to God was to lower himself, to be humbled before God.
For Noah, I’m convinced that he felt an overwhelming humility. Water splashing around him, as the torrents kept coming down. He knew his place, one of humility. I am sure that he never forgot that all the days of his life. For us, though we may never face such a flood as Noah or a tsunami like Japan, we too must live a life seasoned with humility.
We are nothing in the light of our Glorious and Mighty God. Tread humbly.
Seasoning #2: WORSHIP
That would be enough for any man to now move through life, seasoned with humility, but that is not all. That is not the whole story for Noah and his ark. And I know that if Noah felt humility when faced with the awesome power of the water around him, and the God that commanded the water where to go, Noah felt more humility when the ark landed.
Another misnomer that is presented when the story of Noah is taught to only children is that when the Ark landed on top of the mountain, Noah and his family, and all the animals immediately got out. But that isn’t the case. It was a good long time from when the ark landed on the mountains of Ararat before the ground was dried, and everyone made their exodus to the land.
I am sure that Noah, with nothing but time on his hands, also came to this realization, another thought that would season him with humility; the only reason that humanity still existed was by God’s grace.
The idea for an ark, that wasn’t Noah’s. While we aren’t sure if there were other boats in that time, Noah was not the one that dreamed it up. He did use the hammer, and put nail and wood together, but this wasn’t his brain-child. It was God’s idea.
The plan for food, the plan to save a pair, and then some, of each animal according to its kind for after the flood, that wasn’t Noah’s idea either.
To have the ark rest safely on something solid, something that would not be moved by waters receding and eroding the ground, Noah had no control over that.
The entire flood account is a giant testimony to the grace of God. Over and over again, God is moving and working things together. Noah may be the instrument that put God’s plan together, but it was God and only God that originated it and orchestrated it. The Ark was a creation of His grace.
How humbling to sit in the vessel of God’s grace. To look around, to see his wife and son’s working away to keep every animal happy and feed, to hear his daughter-in-laws talking and planning a future after the left the ark, this must have been humbling.
It is a common male trait to take great pride in our ability to do and provide and to make things work out. I know that I do, even if I don’t say it out loud, even if my accomplishment goes unnoticed, I still feel it. But for Noah, there must have been an overwhelming realization that his entire life was a gift, a gracious gift from God. I believe the same to be true for anyone that truly stops and examines their lives.
In my life, it is a miracle that I am married. When I meet my wife, she was dating someone else, and I was a miserable, bitter, angry man. What she saw in my still mystifies me, but I know that it could only have been God that rearranged her situation and His changing of my heart that landed me with a beautiful bride.
In my life, it is a miracle that I own a house. My father, a pastor, has lived his entire pastoral career in parsonages or rectories, a home provided for the minister by the church. I grew up believing that I would live the same life, never having something that was mine. But by a gracious miracle of God, my wife and I found a house, put in a bid, and in a weekend became homeowners.
I would love to say that I did those things, to beat my chest and have everyone respect me for being such a great man, but it is not true. I live in a tidal wave of God’s grace, and what I have shared is only the tip of the iceberg.
Noah’s story is overwhelmed by God’s grace, and by extension the lives of every person that has lived after him. For without the grace of God, we would not be here. Every breath that we take is a reminder of our need for living humbly, for we live by the grace of an Almighty God.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6.8
If the first seasoning that we need to have in our lives is humility, this second one flows freely out of it. The first helps produce the second, and it is just as important as the first.
“So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all creatures that move along the ground and all the birds – everything that moves on the earth – came out of the ark, one kind after another. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.” – Genesis 8.18-20
The practice of animal sacrifice is something that readers of the Bible become very familiar with. It litters the books of Moses. The imagery is used and carried throughout the Prophets. Even in the days of Jesus, people would make sacrifices to God.
But Noah’s is a unique sacrifice. His offering is not commanded. He is not being moved by the writings of Moses, for Moses and his law haven’t come yet. The Prophets and Jesus are still hundreds of years in the future yet.
Noah is making this sacrifice as an act of worship. He is going from a place of humility and moving to a place of worship. This is the second ingredient that Noah’s life was seasoned with; worship.
His humility drove him to this action. Realizing that he was nothing compared to the might and power of the flood, knowing that he was nothing when he stood in the light of a fearful God, knowing that the existence of his family and all creation was only possible by the graciousness of God, Noah was moved to worship. Though we do not offer animals in burnt offerings today, we too should be so moved from our place of humility to a place of worship.
While Noah had animals to offer, we most likely don’t have sheep or goats at our disposal. But that doesn’t hinder us from giving God an offering. We still have plenty to offer God. The specific may have changed, but the principle is something we can still do. We can give God our time. We can sacrifice our energy for His cause. We can give offerings or financial blessings. Anything of value or importance that we could sacrifice to God can and should be given.
What you offer may be different than what I offer, and the amounts may be different. But each of us should live a life that is seasoned with worship, for all of us live in the hands of a fearful and merciful God.
Often we think that offerings and such sacrifices can and should be done in a more corporate setting. We give our offerings in church. We make our sacrifices of time and energy for church ministries. We do it with other people there or as part of a group giving. But that isn’t what Noah did. It wasn’t Noah and his family that built the altar and sacrificed. It says Noah; he did this alone. He sought out a worship time with God by himself.
I know that the world demands so much of our time and energies, whether it is work or family that is making the demands. It can be extremely difficult to find or make time for yourself, never mind making time to privately worship God. But I think that is why saying that Noah’s life and our lives should be seasoned with worship is best.
We don’t have to stop doing things or canceling events so that we have time to worship every day. But we should live in a way that we are happy to pause, even for a minute, and glorify God. To give Him honour and respect for what He has done, and for who He is. It may be a minute, it may be an evening you schedule on purpose. However long, at whatever time, we should live a life seasoned with worship, just like Noah did.
A life seasoned with humility and worship is a life well lived. That is something that we should seek to have in our lives.
That is what it means to be a man.
All Scripture references provided by Biblegateway.com
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