The voyage of Noah and his critters stands as one of the most beloved stories of humankind. But few people have a grasp of the real story and what it means for the faithful today. I think this ancient hero and his voyage still have a message for us in the 21st century. Over the next several blogs I want to explore how it might help our spiritual journey.
First, some background. Tales of a great Flood are common in the middle eastern cultures of the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC. The Babylonians told their story of a hero named Gilgamesh 1000 years before the Hebrew priests. I believe Yahweh inspired His prophets in Israel to adapt the story and fill it with greater revelation. Their focus was on theological truths, instructing the people of Israel about God and His ways. We must also be reminded that these cultures were pre-scientific and proto-historical. We shouldn't expect the primitive descriptions of this literary narrative to match scientific facts, any more than we would measure the distance to the center of the Milky Way from a child's painting of stars. As proto-history, the narrative exists outside of chronological time or radiocarbon dating. Noah and his ark are as real today as they were to the eager worshipers of God at Jerusalem at Solomon's Temple.
We can learn a lot about our own journey with God if we look deeply at the description of Noah's life. The first quality listed in Genesis 6:9 is "righteous." This is a common word in the Old Testament, used to describe a moral, law-abiding person. In Ezekiel 18:5-9, the same word describes a person who is devoted to God, faithful to his wife, is generous to the needy, wise in judgment and committed to following God’s direction.
This quality is in total contrast to the world of spiritual confusion Noah lived in daily. Genesis depicts the era as a time without spiritual direction, with no prophets, priests or clear commandments from God to guide their religion. In Genesis 6:5 “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become…” With no written revelation, no assembly of spiritual persons, it meant that anyone could claim spiritual truth. Shaman, witch doctors, and magicians filled every village. Noah's clan struggled to stay true to the basic faith that had been passed down from Adam.
It’s easy to see our world in this same light. Spiritual confusion is everywhere. Doing right is not easy. Temptation comes in many forms.
We should cultivate the spirituality that keeps us in order with God’s way. It won’t grow naturally. We must focus our energy on spiritual development. But what a blessing comes with this devotion! In a world of mixed up faiths, we would be wise to life rightly with the God revealed fully in Jesus.