Sometimes there’s a funny thing that happens if you’re not careful when reading God’s Word- your brain can try to add aspects to the story that seem natural even though it’s not written in the text. That’s exactly what I’ve done with the story of Noah’s ark over the years & I never realized it until recently & it deals with how Noah was faithful.
You may be thinking that when I refer to “how Noah was faithful” that I’m talking about the part of the story where he builds this ridiculously massive ship to prepare for a flood that will destroy the whole world because God told him to even though it had never even rained before, & you may be thinking I’m going to say we all ought to do something grand with our faith like that this year.
But…that’s not the part of the story I’m referring to & that’s not what I’m going to say, but we’ll get there.
Many of us know the story of Noah’s ark. If not, go read Genesis 6:5-8:22, but to summarize: the world is horribly horribly evil, so God decides to wipe the slate clean starting with one faithful man & his family- Noah. He tells Noah to build an ark so he & his family can be saved from the coming flood & he tells him to load up animals of all kinds- 2 of each kind of unclean animal & 7 pairs (so 14 total) of each kind clean animal- in order to repopulate the earth after the flood. God brings the animals to Noah, Noah loads them, TOONNNSS of food, himself & his family into the ark, God closes them in, & the flood comes. Jesus even refers to it in Matthew 24:38-39, that it came on so suddenly that no one was expecting it or worried about it until it was too late. The flood waters rise for 40 days & 40 nights, but it takes WAYYYY longer for the flood waters to go away. Between Genesis 7 & 8 we can see the whole process from entering the ark to exiting took just over 1 Hebrew calendar year (Gen 7:11 vs. Gen 8:14). When they finally exit the ark Noah builds an altar & sacrifices animals to the Lord for what God had done on their behalf & God then makes a covenant to never destroy the whole earth by flood again & marks the rainbow as our forever reminder of that covenant.
And that last part of the story- the building of the altar & offering of sacrifices to the Lord (Gen 8:20-22)- that’s the part of the story I’m referring to Noah’s faithfulness. All the other times I’ve read that story for some reason I thought that Noah built the altar & offered sacrifices to God because God told him to. I don’t know why I thought that, but I guess it just felt “natural,” so my brain added the detail to my memory. In reviewing the story recently, though, I realized God never told Noah to do that, Noah just chose to offer the sacrifices because he wanted to. He & his family exited the ark after more than a year & realized the world as they knew it before was gone forever & yet they were the only ones that survived because God chose them. God didn’t have to choose them. If you look at the timeline from Adam to Noah, Adam hadn’t been dead too long before Noah lived. It is very likely Noah had heard Great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-etc Grandpa Adam’s account of God’s creation of the world from someone who could have heard it directly from Adam himself, so Noah KNEW that if God wanted, He could have wiped EVERYONE off the face of the earth including Noah & his family & literally created everything from scratch, but God spared them & gave them the chance to start the world over. I can’t even imagine what that would have been like for him, but how grateful Noah must have felt to have been spared, seen, chosen, & loved by such a MIGHTY God when he didn’t have to be. Noah’s choice to build the altar & offer sacrifices was the tangible outpouring of those thoughts & feelings.
“…how grateful Noah must have felt to have been spared, seen, chosen, & loved by such a MIGHTY God when he didn’t have to be. Noah’s choice to build the altar & offer sacrifices was the tangible outpouring of those thoughts & feelings…”
But WAIT…there’s MORE!!
While God never commanded Noah to build an altar to offer sacrifices, He provided Noah what he’d need in order to show his faithfulness & gratitude to the Lord if he chose to do so. Go back & look at what God told Noah to bring onto the ark. He told Noah to bring just 1 pair of every kind of unclean animal & 7 pairs (14 animals total) of every kind of clean animal. The clean animals were the ones used for sacrificial worship to the Lord in the Hebrew culture. God brought all those animals to Noah to load up on the ark. Noah didn’t have to go on some kind of Indiana Jones-like expedition across the world to do it himself. God provided & brought the animals he needed to Noah. If God had only provided 2 of each clean & unclean animal- sure, *MAAYBEEE* they would have had time to produce offspring while on the ark, but maybe not. If there had only been 2 of each kind of clean animal, Noah could have been simultaneously offering a sacrifice & making a whole KIND of animal go extinct (not just a species…but a KIND…so think like dog or cat, etc.). But God provided more than what Noah needed for him to be faithful. He provided enough so that there would be plenty to repopulate the earth AND enough for Noah to offer up to the Lord, if that’s what Noah chose to do.
Again, looking at scripture God never commanded it & He never even suggested it. He just provided what Noah would need for the opportunity but left the choice up to him. Yes, he was obedient & faithful in building an ark when God told him to, even though it made him look nutsoes to the rest of the world, but Noah also demonstrated his faithfulness to God even though he wasn’t asked or commanded to do so. He had extra clean animals- he could have kept them for himself, he & his family could have become arrogant about being the “chosen ones” to survive the flood, they could have had some crazy kind of celebratory-survival feast with all those extra animals- but instead Noah humbled himself & pointed the glory back to the Lord- the One who created Him, chose him, provided for him, & could have chosen otherwise but didn’t.
In the start of this new year, I want to be faithful like Noah. God has brought me through quite a few storms over the years. Yes, obviously if God asked me to do something huge & crazy like He asked Noah to build the ark, I hope I would be faithful & obedient…but I also want to show my faithfulness to the Lord even when He provides but doesn’t ask or command anything. God provided for Noah & put him in a situation where Noah COULD glorify the Lord if he chose to, but He didn’t command Noah to do it. He opened the door & let Noah walk through on his own if he wanted. God has done the same for me in so many ways, so my question & challenge to myself this year is this: God has provided, He has opened the door for me to walk in faithfulness & glorify Him if I want to…so will I?
As I walk into 2023, I want to have a heart of faithfulness, of awe & worship towards God. He has provided for me more than I need- not just with tangible things or financially, but in time, in talent, in hard spiritual disciplining over the years. And God’s provision hasn’t always been in abundance or for “wants,” but exactly what I needed when I needed it. There are so many ways- not just ark-sized ways, but tiny, everyday little altar-sized ways God has provided & for which I can choose to be grateful to the Lord for, things which I can offer back to Him in gratitude, worship, & faithfulness…so am I being faithful like Noah? Will I be?
I pray that I will & I am making it a focus for my heart & life this year.
I want to be faithful like Noah, what about you?
Happy New Year, friends, & be blessed!