NOAH AND THE FLOOD: A LESSON IN PATIENCE
I learnt a sobering lesson about patience recently as I read the account of Noah and the flood in the biblical book of Genesis. We know the summary of the story: The world was steeped in sin but Noah was righteous. When God couldn’t take humanity’s evil anymore, He asked Noah to build an ark in which his family and several pairs of all kinds of animals could be saved. On the appointed day, they entered the ark and God unleashed an unprecedented flood that wiped out all living things. Then Noah and his company came out of the ark, which had floated on the waters till the earth was dry, to multiply and replenish the living species on earth.
Neat story, right? Awesome! Except that as I read the details, I wondered how Noah and his group ‘endured’ the experience. Yes, ‘endured’! Their lives were being saved quite alright but if they were anything like me, it wouldn’t have been easy for them. As I reflected on this, I was reminded once again that anyone who wants to walk with God must learn to wait, to be calm and give God time to do what He intends to do. But frankly, sometimes, waiting seems to be the hardest thing to do!
Let’s go through the story again bit by bit and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You’ll see how the patience of Noah and his family could nave been stretched as God delivered them.
The actual rains and water from beneath the earth popping up lasted just forty days. (I say ‘just’ in relation to the time that elapsed before Noah and the rest were able to set foot outside the ark.) The deluge began on the seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s six hundredth year. By then, Noah and his family had already spent seven days in the ark.
“7. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. 8. Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, 9. There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah. 10. And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. 11. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. – Genesis 7:7-12 (emphasis, mine)
The flood precipitated by the deluge would naturally take much longer to dry because the account says that the mountains were submerged by over twenty feet of water. We were first told in chapter 7, verse 24 that the floods surged for a hundred and fifty days (about five months). Now I don’t believe that Noah and his family were anything but grateful while the downpour occurred. Every other living thing had died but they were safe in the ark buoyed up by the waters. They must have thanked God endlessly and might have continued in the first month after the rains stopped. But as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, I wonder if they had got restless. I would have. Yet, even after the five months, they still didn’t have permission to leave the ark. Why?
Although the ark had rested on Mt. Ararat in the seventh month, it wasn’t until the tenth month that the tops of the mountains could be seen. (Remember they were more than twenty feet below water.)
“3. And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated. 4. And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. 5. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.” – Genesis 8:3-5 (emphasis, mine)
(Related: This Is My Life – Poem)
The flood was still drying up and had a long way to go. They weren’t going to live at the mountaintop. The rest of the earth needed to dry too. This was a natural process and it seemed to be taking forever. I wonder if they asked God to speed things up at some point. I know I would have. They waited another forty days and Noah opened a window for a peep. He sent out a raven and a dove to see how things were. The dove came back because the earth wasn’t quite dry.
“8. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9. But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.” – Genesis 8:8-9
After seven days, Noah sent the dove out again and what a celebration he and his company must have had when it returned.
“10. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11. And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.” – Genesis 8:10-11
Perhaps, Noah picked up his wife and spun her around. “Voila, honey, a leaf! The water is all gone!”
But the wait wasn’t quite over yet. Now a flood that massive would have turned the ground to mush. It wouldn’t make sense to come out and break their limbs or catch an infection after waiting so long.
“Let’s give it another week,” he must have said to the rest of the family, who had gathered round.
I wonder if they groaned. That’s the thing about waiting. You can be serene and take it all with equanimity until it’s approaching time for the wait to end, then you just can’t take it anymore. Perhaps, they suggested they’d prefer to take their chances outside than remaining cooped up in the ark for one moment longer. This reminds me of the folk tale about the tortoise in a pit. All the time he was there, no one heard from him. But on the day he was to be pulled out, he urged those to do the job to hurry up because he couldn’t stand the stink down there any longer.
(Related: Be Patient When God Delays)
Anyway, seven days later, Noah sent out the dove for the third time but it didn’t return (v. 12), probably because it could fend for itself. You would think that everyone will be filing out from the ark at this point. But, no!
“13. And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried. 15. And God spake unto Noah, saying, 16. Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee.” – Genesis 8:13-16
From the time the dove left and Noah uncovered the ark, he and his company spent another fifty-seven days inside until God directed them to come out. Wheeew! You are not safe until God says you are safe. Things may look okay to you, but you still need God to say, “Move”, before you do.
Altogether, Noah and others spent three hundred and eighty-two days (that is, about twelve and half months) in the ark to be delivered from a forty-day flood. Can you beat that?
So, next time God assures you He has taken care of a problem but you still see yourself stuck or constrained by the circumstances created by the problem, don’t doubt Him or bellyache. When you’re tempted to fret and complain that God is taking too long, remember the flood, remember Noah and his family in the ark.
I would imagine that Noah and his family devised means to keep themselves busy in the ark. They would have realised that worrying won’t make the time go faster and that harassing God won’t do it either. In the same way, allow God to guide you into some creative ways to spend your time in the wait. Don’t allow the enemy to turn you against God when He’s actually perfecting your miracle. Thank Him and listen closely to His signal before concluding that the wait is over.
May the Lord bless you as you bear the fruit of patience in major and minor issues of your life as you daily walk with Him in Jesus’ name.
(Related: You Call It A Delay, But God Calls It A Design)
The scriptures used in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
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