I recently re-read the account of Noah. Genesis is a great read but the stories become so familiar I risk failing to notice anything fresh. Chapter eight brings the record of Noah’s Ark to a close when God says in verse 16, “Go out from the ark.” (Some versions read, “Leave the boat.”)
Those words stopped me. I backed up and read them again. Go out from the ark. The Holy Spirit had something to say to me. I put myself in that narrative and came up with a mixed feeling of relief and dread. It’s the space between relief and dread where we struggle; where faith is required and where we grow.
Noah was a God-fearing man living in a world completely defiled by perversion, corruption, violence and all sorts of bad. I look at the world I’m in and wonder how could it get much worse. Looking at Noah’s day I realize, it can get worse.
Peace and safety would not have characterized Noah’s life or the world he was living in. I imagine that kind of darkness must be something akin to breath-sucking spiritual asthma.
Mankind had become so vile and morally degraded that it made God heart-sick. He regretted making humans and having reached the end of His tolerance determined to eliminate all flesh, to wipe them from the face of the earth. Genesis 6 records:
5 Then the Lord saw that man was very sinful on the earth. Every plan and thought of the heart of man was sinful always. 6 The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth. He had sorrow in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have made from the land, man and animals, things that move upon the earth and birds of the sky. For I am sorry that I have made them.”
I can’t imagine what a brain-twisting shock it must have been to Noah when God revealed His plan to destroy mankind? If Noah wasn’t anxious before God brought him into the know I’m certain he must have been afterward.
But God reassured Noah. Don’t worry Noah, you’re going to be spared–yours is going to be the only family on earth after I’m finished. I’m sorry, but would that sound like good news to you? I’m not so sure I’d think so. In fact, it’s a terrifying thought really. All kinds of logistical issues would be running through my head like what about all those bodies laying on the ground when the water receded. And then there’s the issue of repopulating the earth and starting from scratch and not having anyone to trade with.
The Genesis account carries us along as God speaks of rain, a flood, and an ark. I’d likely be responding with terror and anxiety asking God, so let me see if I’ve got this right, LORD: You’re going to kill everyone except me and my family. For forty days rain will fall from the sky until it covers the earth. You want me to build a boat, which I’ve never seen before following your verbal blueprint. Then you want me to gather up a pair of every animal and bird on earth to bring into the boat with us?
You know the story. The rains come, the people die and Noah has no idea how long he’ll be in the boat. But 378 days after Noah was instructed to get into the boat, God spoke again and this time said, “Leave the boat.” The same boat that spared them from a watery grave? This boat that had been their safety and provision?
Though we’d never have a story as dramatic as Noah’s, we’ve all known places of safety provided us by God. We’ve taken shelter in arks of our own making as well. People, places, jobs, churches, and titles can provide us a measure of safety and comfort. Even our slavery and bondage can become a safe, predictable place we take refuge in.
God, however, in His perfect love for us will not allow us to remain dependent on the temporary places of refuge and safety, comfort or security–even when they’ve been God’s initial provision. No matter their varying aspects, all of our Arks are stamped with the same shelf-life. TEMPORARY!
Years ago, when my children were small, I tried to enter the workforce shortly after becoming a single mother. The nature of events leading to my divorce left me too emotionally ragged to work. God, through my church, provided me an Ark, a safe place from the storm. They paid my mortgage for six months while I gained my equilibrium.
Eventually, as planned, I had to get out of the boat and plant a vineyard.
Leave the boat. God has spoken those words to me many times in my life and each time I heard them I didn’t feel ready. In some cases, I thought God was being uncaring. Over time, however, I have come to know that He doesn’t do anything in our lives that isn’t for our extreme best.
His character and trustworthiness prove true each time.
Mister and I hadn’t planned to be catapulted into retirement ten years before we were ready. My husband had one place of employment his entire life–the family farm. Circumstances and decisions completely out of our control blindsided us and wrapped up a forty year career and our future plans.
Like the Ark, the farm was a place of safety in the form of job security that included lots of nice benefits. And though involvement in a large family farm wasn’t without its share of animal noise and foul smells, it was what kept us from sinking.
The news hit hard on several fronts but within the swirl of hurt and confusion, we heard the quiet of God’s voice, It’s time to leave the boat. Like I imagined Noah must have felt when God spoke those words to him, I felt relief and dread.
In a tapestry of divine weaving, a beautiful picture emerged. What God had in store for us was not simply a lovely riverfront home but a beautiful rural community of friends that have quickly become family. We’re in a terrific church pastored by an incredible bible-teacher and we’re plugged into a Life Group just down the road from us.
It has been nine months since we felt catapulted into thin air yet scarcely a day passes without one of us audibly thanking God for such richness.
God’s love is always harnessed to kindness, to mercy, to grace, and to the truth. Because He loves us enough to keep us growing in faith and character, He’ll kick us out of our comfort zones, correct our missteps, and discipline our waywardness. Other times, for reasons I can’t explain, God simply wants to lavish us with unmerited blessing. Either way, His sovereignty is the absolute best ark of all.
If you are hearing Him, you can trust Him.
Don’t be afraid to leave the boat, my friend.