Saturday, August 23, 2014

Noah: Walking With God

            Genesis 6:8 is so humbling and convicting to me:  “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  

            The whole earth was evil, so evil that God was pained in His heart and was going to wipe everything out, animals included.  It all broke His heart.  [It is important for those who want to criticize God for destroying an entire generation to realize that some scholars believe that this is a time when half-human/half-demon giants roamed the earth, the Nephilim.  Gen 6:1-4 talks about how the sons of God – possibly fallen angels – went and had children with the daughters of men, the human women.  If this is the case, then this generation was not like the normal everyday people we know nowadays.  This idea would also explain the angels who are held in chains awaiting the Day of Judgment in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6.] 
            But what I want to look at today is that in all this evil, one man stood out.  God looked down through the myriad of evil life and noticed one righteous man. 

            Do you ever feel overlooked?  Unimportant?  Like no one notices or cares about what you do?  God does.  God looks past all the mess of the world and He sees the hearts that are desiring and seeking Him.  That are committed to Him in spite of all the evil and selfishness. 

            I don’t know about you, but sometimes I look around at all the evil of the world, all the gray morals out there, and I want to despair and cry out that it’s all so overwhelming, that there’s nothing one person can really do to change the world.  If I feel that way, I can only imagine that Noah felt it so much more.  Because he was the only person in the world who was righteous at that time.  When he stood out, he stood out alone and in a huge way.  Could you imagine?
            But God noticed him.  Not because of any great thing he was doing to change the world around him.  But simply because “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.”  It doesn’t say that Noah was out there wearing sandwich boards painted with “Repent, the end is near,” or picketing outside the evil centers of the day, or starting up a church, or passing out Christian pamphlets, or singing in the choir.  Not that these things are wrong to do.  But Noah was noticed by God and made a difference for all of humanity because . . . he walked with God!
            Whatever was going on out there, Noah was drawn to and abiding in God.  He was blameless because he let his faith in God guide his actions and behavior.  He lived out his faith in complete obedience and faithfulness.  How many of us act like our church service and good acts make us righteous before God, gain us some favor with Him?  How many of us feel like our abundance of stuff must mean we are favored by Him? 
            But what does He really notice?  If we are walking with Him.   Not walking ahead of Him or walking 10 paces to the side of Him in the same general direction, but walking with Him.  Notice it doesn’t say that God walked with Noah, but that Noah walked with God.  Constant, daily, slow, forward motion.  Yes, God walks with us  . . . when we walk with Him.  We have to get on the path He is on to be walking with Him.  He doesn’t get onto ours, as much as we try to make Him.  (Just look up “walk” in your Bible’s concordance to see how many times it says that we are to walk in His paths, His ways.)   
             And the only way to be with Him is to remain in the places where He reveals Himself.  The Word, prayer, in fellowship with the Spirit and with other believers.  Yet, so many of us live in the hopes that God will meet us on our terms, in our timing, on our path.  I know it’s not always a popular position to say that we need to read our Bibles – not many of us want to hear that.  Even a lot of Christians don’t want to hear that.  We feel like the person saying that must be some sort of legalistic, holier-than-thou, card-carrying, Bible-bashing believer.  And yes, they might say this, too. 
            But I say it not because it’s something we have to do for the sake of doing it, but because it’s the place where God reveals Himself - who He is, who we are, and what HE wants to tell us.  It’s in black-and-white words, little room for misinterpretation.  (And yet how we try and try to twist them to say what we want.)  We should be reading not to check off a daily chore but to meet with God daily out of our deep need to walk with Him.  If you haven’t discovered this deep need to walk with God daily, you are walking alone. 
            While the Bible is His most clearly developed message to us, He also reveals Himself during prayer and in nature and through people, etc.  And we would be wise to let our mind dwell on Him, wherever we find Him.  But because prayer and nature (etc.) can be very subjective, we need to be grounded in the Word so that we can evaluate any messages that come to us from other places.  If you do not clearly and deeply know God’s revealed Word, it is much easier to misinterpret the more subjective messages that we get from other places and people.
            Okay, so back to Genesis, we read next that God told Noah his plans to wipe out life and how Noah was to build the ark.  To me, this shows just how much God works with and through man and his obedience.  I think we are greatly confused nowadays about how God works.  We think that if God wants to do it, He’ll do it.  Regardless of what we do.  God could have made the ark Himself and saved a lot of time.  But He didn’t do that.  Because He accomplishes His plans through people.  He looks for those with willing, obedient hearts and He says, “I have a job for you.”  But how often do we let the idea that “God does whatever He wants” make us lazy in our responsibility to listen, respond, and obey?  
            Notice that Noah did everything that God commanded him (verse 22).  He followed God’s instructions to the letter.  And this is what made it possible to survive in the ark with all the animals for all that time.  Carefully adhering to God’s instructions.  The rest of humanity and history depended on Noah’s careful obedience.   
            I have to ask myself, am I so careful to listen for and follow all of God’s instructions to me?  What I find in His Word and hear in prayer and know in my heart?  Honestly, the answer is no.  I do try a lot.  But I do not always do everything that the Lord commands me, to the letter.  I find ways to cut corners.  Or I get a message and start running without getting the whole message.  Because at times, I’m lazy, self-indulgent, too busy, overly excited, not listening, or just plain tired. 
            But God wants people who will be totally obedient, and He has reasons for asking what He does.  God’s plans for humanity rested on Noah, but maybe for us it’s just that our obedience will affect those immediately around us or the legacy we pass on.  My influence will be a lot smaller than Noah’s was, but no less important to God and His plans for my tiny world and those whose lives I touch.
            And also for the life I live in eternity.  What we do here matters and affects eternity.  For us and for others.  We might not be able to see and know the results of our obedience, but our responsibility is to be obedient, even in the small things and even when we don’t know God’s reasons for asking certain things of us.  Noah had to listen to all the ridicule from people as he built the ark.  Year after long year.  And I’m sure it would have been easy to get discouraged or to doubt the assignment that God gave him.  But his heart was set on being obedient to God, no matter the cost. 
            Which lead to the next lesson of this chapter: the closer you walk with God and the fiercer you cling only to Him and the more you try to look like Him, the more different you’ll look from the rest of the world.  I’m sure Noah stood out like a sore thumb.  And I can only imagine the intense teasing and persecution he got for listening to a God that no one else cared about and for being obedient enough to build an ark in a world that never saw rain yet.  (From what I understand, the ground was watered by dew and not rain until the depths of the earth broke open in the flood.)
            And could you imagine the persecution he would get if he was wrong?  If, after decades and decades of building an ark, nothing happened?  I wonder if Noah ever had doubts running through his mind as he hammered in each nail, day after day, year after year.  Thoughts like, Dear God, I really hope I’m not wrong in what I heard You say.  I would be the laughingstock of the town.  I would totally embarrass You.  Wait, a minute, I am already the laughingstock.  I don’t know, maybe I do hope I’m wrong because I don’t want to watch everyone around me die?  Or maybe I do?  They are all so evil.  I don’t know.  I don’t even know what to think anymore.  All I know is that this is what You told me to do, and I am responsible to obey as best I can.   
            It took a lot of faith to cling to God and trust Him enough to obey when everyone else was trying to pull him down and when he looked so ridiculous to others.  And this must have made him a really lonely man.  He was the most righteous man on earth at the time.  So who else was there for him to lean on, to seek support or encouragement or advice from, to pat his back and say “Good job, keep it up”?
            No one.  No one . . . but God.  Noah could look nowhere else for support but to God alone.  Noah could get no spiritual leadership from anyone else.  He had to cling to God alone.  He had to come to the realization that God is enough.  And that God is good, despite the fact that the He was going to destroy everyone else.  This must have taken constant, daily walking with God to remain faithful and encouraged.  Encouraged by the only One that really mattered.  Our good, Heavenly Father.
            What an amazing lesson we learn in Noah about faith and trust, about being radically obedient, and about walking with God!  These things greatly affect the legacy we pass on and the eternity that we are building.  Thank God, for our sake, that Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  Do I?  Do you?