6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. 7 And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons entered the ark, 14 they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. 15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in. Genesis 7:6-16
I am not sure how old you are...but I am guessing it is well below the 600 birthday candles Noah blew out on his cake the year he built the ark. So, there are two ideas that are awoken in response to this part of the narrative.
First, what exactly is truth in the Bible? In other words, does the Bible literally mean that Noah was 600 years old or is that a metaphor? What is at stake often is that some folks see the Bible as a chain link, that every verse and word has to be equally the God's written/given truth, otherwise the whole thing is a sham. And you know the cliche, that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And so if Noah was not 600 years old, some might argue, does that also negate everything else written in the Bible? In some ways this could be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. At the other extreme, people have come to see scripture as being such a work of fiction that they discount any truth it might have. Some folks cling just as tightly to the scientific method as some do to Biblical literalness. Those are the two extremes...I prefer somewhere in the messy middle between the two. I think this story has truth even if every detail is not literally true.
For example, I think that many of our elders in our midst have the most knowledge, because of life experiences, that they would be the first to see wickedness and brokenness and want to make a change. The truth of Noah's narrative may not be found necessarily in debating his age, but rather having a debate about the ways we treat our octogenarians in our world today! How many of us would commit an 80 year old to the nursing home if he said he wanted to build a boat? Or at least schedule a doctor's appointment! Yet, there is a wisdom that comes with age that we need to be better about listening to in our world today.
Second, they were shut up in the ark for seven days before the first rain drop fell from the ground. That is a great image and so true about waiting in the life of faith. How many of us have taken a leap of faith and feel like Wiley E. Coyote hanging in mid-air waiting for the bottom to drop out or for us to plummet to the ground with a "THUD"? So often we set up a mathematical equation for faith. If I am faithful plus church attendance should equal God responding on my time table...rather than God's time table. There are numerous people who like to poke fun the second something does not work out... especially in the media. If the government program doesn't work...the opposing political party leaps like a hungry lion at that first sign of failure. How many people stood laughing outside the ark? How often do we snicker behind the back of someone who tells us they've seen an angel or vision or out of body experience? Honestly, if it is not part of our experience or comfort, we call into question and poke as many holes as possible...I think to make ourselves feel better.
Which gets back around to truth. We all think we see so clearly and know so much. We think we've got it all figured out and everyone else is sheep lead astray. We keep clinging to an ego that destroys relationships. Yet, often the truth that sets us free is not of our own creation. The truth that sets us free can come from that annoying co-worker or person whose politics are different that our own. But do we hear?
How do you see the Bible as truth?
When have you felt God's nudge, but felt like the risk was too much? Or if you took that first step and fell flat on your red, embarrassed face, only to think, "Well I will never do that again!"
As we keep trudging through Noah's Ark and the movie opens very soon...I hope you will consider both of these questions this week...and you might feel a trace of God's grace in your prayerful pondering.