Over the last few days, the Book of Common Prayer’s Old Testament readings have focused on the story of Noah. While meditating on this passage, I was challenged to think about its lessons regarding the call of God and obedience.
It is a lengthy, but familiar story. It would not be a wise use of space to copy the entire account here, but readers may want to look up the passage (Genesis, chapters 6 through 9) here. There are many lessons in this passage, but I will list just a few of them here:
God calls us to obedience, even when it does not make sense. Some Bible scholars claim that it had never rained until Noah’s flood. I am not sure about that; this is mainly an “argument from silence” which assumes that all water was coming up as a mist from the ground (i.e., that conditions described in Genesis 2:5-6 lasted until the time of Noah).
To a certain degree, it does not matter whether it had never rained anywhere on Earth, or Noah lived in the desert. God’s call to build the ark seems ridiculous. The idea that God would send such an overwhelming flood that all life would be destroyed seems incomprehensible. To this day, many people (even some who believe the rest of the Bible) do not believe this story. We have a hard time figuring out where all that water went after the flood ended. Noah’s story can sound unbelievable to us. God’s instructions must have sounded even more unbelievable to him!
There will be times when God calls us to do something, and it does not seem to make any sense. We walk by faith, but we cannot see how God will make any sense out of the situation He is calling us into. When you find that God is calling you to do something, do it! You cannot see where He is leading you, but He sees the end from the beginning.
When God calls us to obedience, it is usually not an easy task. Again, Genesis 6 is not totally clear about how long it took Noah to build the ark. Some people think it took 100 to 120 years. It must have taken a long time: Noah and his three sons probably built it with little or no help, and possibly some resistance by their neighbors. And it was a huge boat, the size of some of our modern ocean liners. By the way, they had to cut down the trees themselves too.
I will not even go into the details about how difficult it had to be maintaining one’s sanity, spending almost a year on a boat surrounded by all those animals. The crowding, the smell, and so on must have tempted Noah to go for a swim!
If you can do it on your own, it may not be the call of God. However, we can be encouraged that He does not leave us to our own devices.
- He usually calls people to work together. Although Noah was called to build the ark, he did not work alone. Together with his three sons, he preserved a remnant on the Earth. Likewise, when Jesus was planning to ensure the future of His ministry, He called 12 men to be His apostles (Mark 3:13-18).
- When God calls you, He invites you first to fellowship. The first task of the disciples was to “be with Him.” Before we serve God or fulfill His calling in our lives, we need to spend time with Him. He wants us to pray, to study His Word, and to learn from Him. This is part of the reason why He calls us to work with others. We need to hear God together and to hold one another accountable. Many of the strangest cult leaders and heretics in church history were men who tried to serve God on their own.
- Finally, God equips us for His service. Noah must have obtained supernatural strength, energy, and perseverance to complete the ark. I bet he needed supernatural patience to stay on the ark and keep his family and all those animals with him! Likewise, when Jesus called His disciples, part of His goal was so that they may preach and cast out demons. Obviously, we do not cast out demons in our own strength. Many of us cannot preach relying on our own abilities. We need to receive ability from God (spiritual gifts) to carry out his purposes.
I look forward to a spiritual adventure in 2012. I am not certain what it will entail, but I believe God is going to call me to do greater works than I have in the past. It will not be something I can do on my own. I need to wait until He speaks (through His Word, during seasons of prayer, and through other men and women of God) and then follow Him in obedience.
This is probably true for you as well. Wait in God’s presence, praying and studying His Word. Seek His plan for your life. Listen to Godly men and women of wisdom who may speak His truth into your life. Seek to find the spiritual gifts God has already given you (see Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, and Romans 12:6-8 for a few suggestions).