When Noah built the ark …

With all of the weather related occurrences in our natural habitat in the last few months, folks are beginning to wonder if some of those old Bible prophecies might be more than just fodder for Sunday sermons by rambling old preachers of the gospel. Several dear friends of mine who have no more than a passing interest in religion, church or gathering with other believers have found the time to ask me what I think about them, and more importantly, what I think might be coming in our future.

I resort to my old stock answer. No one knows for sure what is in our future and no man knows the hour or the day when Christ shall come for the believers and call an end to time as we know it in our physical bodies. We are told in Scripture that false teachers will claim to know the answer, but that no man truly does. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Interesting verses, much less often quoted, follow. “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. And knew not that until the flood came, and took them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).

The details of God commissioning Noah to construct the ark are found in Genesis, Chapter 6. Sunday school kids of all ages can tell you the story from memory, but what they usually see in their mind’s eyes are the cute little tub-like boats holding two of several kinds of animals floating on a pleasant expanse of water. I don’t think after years of study that the ark Noah built was like that all. Those images make for cute nursery decorations, but think about two of every animal. Just how much space would that take?

Verse 14 instructs Noah to make the ark of gopher wood and design it with rooms inside that are pitched within and without. Verse 15 says that the length shall be 300 cubits, the breath 50 cubits, and the height 30 cubits. Following the most respected scholars’ writings, I have learned that the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and three stories (perhaps 45 feet) high. The space provided is equal to more than 522 freight cars, and to me, that seems huge. A normal “stock car” on a railroad line can hold 240 sheep. It was a virtual floating warehouse capable of housing eight thousand pairs of each animal plus Noah’s family of eight, supplies for a little over a year, and some space left over for skeptics.

The word “ark” in the Hebrew language means a chest or box, and the ark became an important symbol of both faith and punishment for the ungodly. In 1 Peter 3:20, Scripture refers to “the days of Noah” while the ark was in preparation and are held up as an example of the longsuffering of God. The same Hebrew word is used of the basket of bulrushes in which Moses was cast out to float upon the Nile in Exodus 2:2-5. The ark was designed to float and not sail and there were no launching problems to report.

What can we learn from the account of the ark? The first thing I think of is that when people make fun of your faith, just simply stay focused on God. He was the architect of the structure and He told Noah what to build. Noah followed his instructions carefully while the folks around him — his peers, if you will — laughed and made all matter of fun of this crazy, wild man building a great floating vessel with no water in sight. We should also learn to share our faith boldly by whatever means God gives us the opportunity. It could be in writing, speaking, music, personal testimony, or in the way we live our lives before others. If we don’t, people will surely perish.

Here’s a hard lesson to learn. There are times in our lives when God shuts doors that we want to see left open. He does that to protect us. Think how Noah and his family must have felt when God shut that door on the ark. Here’s a wonderful reminder — God never breaks His promises to us. He promised Noah and his family safety and protection, and He delivered right on time.

Our prayer should be for patience. Our storms will pass and we will survive if it is God’s will. When we get through the storm, whatever it is today, we can re-focus and see those beautiful green bushes and grass, blue skies, white clouds, and hear the chirping birds. Hopefully those we love will be with us and new opportunities will await us. Keep the faith and do what God says.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788.