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December 3rd, 2013

Noah’s 600 year old habit



Scripture: Genesis 6

In the 600th year of Noah’s life a strange thing happened.  It rained for 40 days and 40 nights so that water covered all the land everywhere.  The flood destroyed everything, except Noah, his wife, their three sons with their wives along with pairs of every kind of animal on earth.  They all bobbed about in the flood-waters of God’s judgment in a handcrafted floating zoo of enormous size because God instructed Noah to build it as the mode of salvation for them.


(picture above: The Deluge, John Martin, 1789 – 1854 – Public Domain)

The story also includes sad information about the moral state of humankind, about God’s regret for making them and his decision to carry out his judgment on them.  It many ways it is a difficult story and a short reflection won’t be able to cover all that is here, but is there something significant we can take into this day?

Genesis 6:22 says: “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.”

It appears that Noah was inclined to be obedient when God asked him to construct the ark.  I wonder about this.  Did he not question anything? Did he not go through some sort of process to get from command, to agreement, to action? Scripture, however, does not give any indication that Noah struggled in any way.  The story is told simply, ‘Noah did this.’

My thoughts wander to Jesus at this point.  In Jesus I can see the struggle, the human struggle to be obedient and surrender to a plan.  I see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, angry while clearing the temple and sweating drops of blood in the garden as he wrestled with his emotions. Perhaps Noah too wrestled with his emotions about what perplexed him about the flood.  


(picture above: The Agony in the Garden, WIlliam Blake circa 1799 Public Domain)

Yet, for both Noah and Jesus at the heart of the matter was obedience.  These words in Philippians 2:8 give us the right perspective for human beings serving God: “And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  We might say that obedience to God is as necessary to being human as breathing.  Or perhaps, we are our best selves when we are obedient to God.  Noah after all ‘walked with God…and did everything that God commanded him,’ and Jesus, in whom God was well pleased ‘humbled himself by becoming obedient’.

That said, I think it begins at day one, the day we say yes to God.  For Noah his ‘journey of yeses’ was 600 years and he built a big boat.  For Jesus, his ‘journey of yeses’ was 33 years and in his obedience he accomplished everything.  For me, so far, it is 46 years and I know this for sure: while I still wrestle with the large task that is mine, I pray my acceptance makes all my years, one long yes.

Lord Jesus, as we turn toward Christmas, turn our hearts toward you. Amen

I found this lovely song based on the Prayer of St. Ignatius by a talented amateur Savio Freitas.

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