Thanks Dan for this thought-provoking post! I look forward to the ‘rest of the story’ when it becomes available.
Lonely Noah! What’s In Your Carry-On Bag?
Something Was Very Important To Noah
If the T.S.A. had searched Noah’s luggage, could they have found something of interest and value? We know about the major contents of the Ark. We know about the people on board the Ark. But does the Bible, history, or legends give us even a hint or possible clue about anything that Noah may have personally carried with him long ago on his nautical voyage? What was important to Noah? If it was you today, what would you take? Photo Albums? Passed-down family heirlooms? Precious memories? Seriously, what would have been precious to Noah? I’ll tell you this, I believe something was very precious to Noah.
A Different Look: What Motivated Noah?
Let’s begin by getting inside Noah’s head for a moment as we look at his life. Although Noah had a wife and family, I tend to believe that Noah was a man who may have battled a deep sense of loneliness throughout his life. Have you ever known anyone like that? Think about this fact: Before the Flood, he was the ONLY righteous person left alive on the Earth! (Gen. 7:1). Imagine living your life as the only one standing against the ways of the world. Imagine the increasing, alienating ridicule he may have endured and how it made him feel. How would you feel?
For years, he was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), and yet no one would listen, no one would heed. Did they scoff at him and walk away? It was isolating enough to be the only righteous man alive; But on top of that, he was also an against-the-grain preacher! He had to feel like an utter alien. I want you to think about the reality of the Bible naming him a “preacher of righteousness”. What does that mean? It probably means the following: 1) God called Noah to preach. 2) Given the situation, he was probably a very passionate preacher. 3) He probably had a true spiritual burden from the Lord accompanied with innumerable hours of knee-breaking powerful intercession. So, he had the calling; he had the truth; he had integrity; he had God’s empowering; he faithfully preached for decades; and had NO results…(crickets chirping). When I think of the preaching ministry of Noah, I can hear the lyrics of the Beatles song Eleanor Rigby when it says, “Father Mckenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear, no one comes near…Father Mckenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved. All the lonely people…”
The world would call Noah a failure. They would say he should quit preaching and do something else with his life. They would remind him of the world’s wisdom which says, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. The sheer loneliness combined with decades of the most complete futility that a minister could ever experience had to be crushing at times. According to the timeline, I believe that Noah holds the Biblical World Record for the lengthiest and most futile preaching ministry (100+ years, 0 converts). I hope he wasn’t a results-oriented person. He had zero results and yet he belongs to the Faith Hall of Fame. God is more interested in character than counting. (Some congregations need to read this before voting their preacher out, and some preachers need to read this before quitting).
Like any real human, Noah must have had times of being engulfed with feelings of despair and failure because of the continual, complete, and very personal rejection of both him and his message. All humans have a real need of knowing that someone can identify with them on some level. That kind of profound and isolated loneliness would cause a righteous man to deeply yearn for some form of attachment or reminder of someone who also loves God the way he does. Noah was very human and his need was intensely magnified.
The Final Farewell
When it came time to enter the Ark, I wonder if Noah and his family experienced tremendous mourning as God closed the door of the great ship? You might be asking, why would he cry at seeing God’s hand provide shelter and comfort by closing out the storm? In our hindsight that’s the way we view the closing of the Ark door. But from Noah’s real and immediate point of view, it probably felt like watching the lid of a coffin closing out the only world he ever knew. His loved ones were about to be buried alive in water! What? I thought that all of his loved ones were on the boat? No, not all of them. The Bible makes a clear point to tell us that Noah had plenty of YOUNGER brothers and sisters (Gen. 5:30). As the skies began to pour out their torrent, I wonder if the Ark was sound proof or if he could hear the traumatizing screams of his brothers, sisters, their families, and their babies as they continuously pounded their adrenaline-filled fists against the Ark while the waters rose to their waists? After carefully contemplating the passage above, I believe that his younger brothers and sisters that he had helped raise and care for, were now dying outside. That is so incredibly sad. No doubt these were many of the people to whom he had preached and poured out his soul (A man who would preach and never give up is a man who I would guess had a deep intense love for those people). I wonder if he could hear them yelling in desperation, “Noah, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you! Please Noah, help me!!!” Have you ever stopped to think of the utter grief and deep emotional pain he suffered as he knew that his younger brothers and sisters were drowning outside? Picture your favorite sibling, nephew, niece, or dear cousin who doesn’t know the Lord. Can you feel it? It was real. I simply cannot grasp the full magnitude of Noah’s very real pain.
Now Noah had many, many years to think about what he would take with him on this voyage. Noah wasn’t stupid and I’m sure that he could see that no was listening to him. He could see that tragedy was coming. Was there anything from the pre-flood world that Noah would want to keep as a source of strength and comfort??? Most of us would be looking for our Bible. What did Noah have?
After the rains stopped, we tend to think about how wonderful it must have been to finally open that window and feel the sunshine; but we forget the dreadfulness of seeing the rotting, dead carcasses of both man and animal floating on the water. After the Flood, it must have been sheer terror for Noah to come to the full realization that his was now the ONLY family left alive on Earth as he walked among the carnage, stench, and destruction (Gen. 6:23). This was so much more than a Hurricane Katrina, or a Japanese tsunami…The whole world was dead. Do you think that Noah and his family suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, or do you think they just lived happily ever after? The circumstances of their post-flood trauma has no equal. How do you deal with that? God sustained them, but the grief was real. Having favor with God does not make you immune to pain.
In his lifetime, Noah went from being a rejected outcast before the flood, to being a lone father in a situation of dire isolation. From beginning to end, everything we read tells us that his life was a life of alienation followed by desolation. Everyone likes to talk about Job, but folks don’t realize the lengthy tragedy of Noah’s life. While it is true that Noah was a righteous man, let’s not forget that Noah was a fallen human being. The emotional pain must have felt overbearing at times. Why else do you think he got drunk (Gen. 9:21)? Commentators try to make this look like Noah had no idea that grapes would do that. Seriously, do you think Noah was that ignorant? Come on! Noah was drunk, naked, and passed out! This was no accident. This was human weakness. I’m not excusing his drunkenness. It made things worse! It led to further tragedy which caused a permanent wedge in this suffering family. (Let me stop for a moment to say that God doesn’t just work in pretty lives; He also works and brings glory into lives that are wrecked with pain. Just because you have favor with God doesn’t mean that things will be rosy with man. Favor doesn’t always = converts, care-free living, and comfort in this world. God is sometimes the only comfort in your life. When you fall, God knows your frame and He remembers that you are dust. But, if you draw nigh to God, He will draw nigh to you. He helped Noah pull through! Do not read the Bible in a deceitful manner thinking these people were above us and escaped real human emotion and weakness. These things are written as examples for us. When you read the bible without calculating human emotion, drama, weakness, and strength into it, then you run the risk of reading with a lying mind. Pray in the Spirit! Noah was far from perfect. BUT, Noah took the comfort that God gave him, and he CONTINUED to worship God. Life busted his chops, but he kept going in God’s strength. Jesus is interceding for you. Perhaps Noah is among the heavenly cloud of witnesses that is cheering you on! Noah would tell you that the joy of the Lord was his strength. That’s real. You’ve got friends in High places! That’s where it counts the most.)
Let me repeat what I said earlier: That kind of profound loneliness would cause a righteous man to deeply yearn for some form of attachment or reminder with someone past or present who also loves God the way he does. Remember, Noah didn’t have a Bible filled with heroes. I personally believe that Noah found that kindred spirit and carried something with him. In the next post, we will take a look at that person and the evidence. In the meantime, I would like to encourage you to do a few things. 1) Share this with others. Maybe it will encourage someone. 2) Read Genesis and start asking questions like: Who is this person? In what ways could Noah identify with this person? What could they pass on to Noah? 3) Feel free to subscribe/follow this blog, or e-mail me so that you don’t miss part 2 and the following segments.