Hope, Anchored and Reaching

We are really bad at waiting. We see our disdain for and discomfort in waiting really clearly in our kids. As adults, we simply mask our impatience in more creative, socially-acceptable ways. Recently, I have made the mistake of telling Whittaker that we are going to an Atlanta United match for our annual Boys Weekend. Homeboy is psyched. His excitement is contagious. He knows the A-T-L chant, has his ATL hat ready, and I’m pretty sure he has asked me about it everyday. “Daddy, when we go to ATL game?” Translated, “Yo, dad. You promised you were taking to me the Atlanta United match. So why hasn’t it happened yet?” It’s a tough pill for a 3 year old to swallow. Time is ambiguous to a toddler. Tomorrow, next year, later today, when you’re older—same thing.

I’ve been attempting to use my parental fail as an opportunity to teach my son about patience. I reassure him that we are, as promised, going to the game. But he has to be patient. His “Ok, daddy. I be patient” is a harsh critique on my impatience. All Whit has to go on is the promise of his father and that hope that his father is faithful. But he waits with childish patience that I need more of. The days of his waiting that pass without us going to the match seem to do nothing to his trust in my promise. “Ok, daddy. I be patient.” One day, he won’t need to be patient anymore. The possibilities of the promise will turn to concrete realities one day soon. He will be at the game and all the more excited for it having waited patiently.

God often ushers into the wait—to wait patiently for things we do not yet see. This is the story of Genesis 8, and it’s the story of the resurrection. Like Noah, we are undeserved recipients of God’s covenantal promise, yet we wait for the fullness of its future fulfillment.

24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. 1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.

6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.

13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark. GENESIS 7.24-8.19

Forty days enduring the fury of the floodwaters. Another one hundred and ten days floating helplessly on the waters that have destroyed the earth and all that was in it hoping desperately God will remember them. One hundred and fifty days in all from when the floodwaters broke loose until the land is dry and habitable again. Five months in darkness floating on the deep, unable to do anything to restore the land, to push back the waters, to navigate to safety. Like being adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean, Noah and his crew have no way home. “But God remembered Noah” and all the animals. Some of the most joy-instilling, hope-inspiring words in the biblical story: But God. These words imply that God acted when no one else could or would. 

The story of Noah paints in dramatic fashion our inability to fashion our own salvation. Our only hope is that God will remember—and not simply remember but act. Across the deep waters, God causes a wind to blow. In Hebrew, the word for wind and Spirit is the same—ruakh. In Genesis 1.2, the ruakh of God was hovering over the waters. Here, in Genesis 8.1, God causes a ruakh to blow over the waters. Where God had unleashed the waters in an act of de-creation, here God mimics his original act of creation, causing a ruakh to blow over the waters. God has not flooded the world in order to forget about it. Rather, he has judged it in order to redeem it, to restore his good purposes. In fact, the only way to redeem it is to judge it. Left alone, humanity and all of creation will only spiral in the trap of sin and death. God’s concern for all of creation is made clear in the perhaps surprising statement that God remembered not just Noah but the animals. God’s original purposes are still good, and God is at work to redeem his sin-hijacked purposes for all creation. This pattern of redemption through judgment will become a repeated theme in the rest of the biblical narrative. In a sinful world, sin must be judged. Yet God’s good purposes from of old still stand—God will work to redeem all that sin has undone. This is, in fact, the central theme we have been exploring in Genesis—God’s promise that in the end, even evil will not overcome his good purposes.

The narrative gives great attention to chronology. There is frequent mention of days and months and years, and their frequency is the author’s cue to pay attention, much like the repeated lifespans of Genesis 5. The repeated chronological markers move the narrative along, but they also orient us to the time that has passed. It is easy to move from one time to another in a mere sentence, yet it seems the author wants us to get a sense of the magnitude of time. The author’s use of chronological markers invites us to see time from Noah’s perspective—passing but unpredictably and painstakingly slow. The author is ushering us into Noah’s wait—the wait for the floodwaters to stop their fury, for the waters to begin to subside, for signs of the land to appear, for the land to at last be dry again. All Noah had over these five months was a promise that God would save him. For five months in a handmade ark full of a massive menagerie of animals and his closest family, Noah waited for the fullness and fulfillment of the covenant. God had saved him, but his salvation was not yet complete. For the fullness of the promise, Noah waits.

The structure of the narrative is interesting, helping us to see the theme of waiting more clearly. It begins with the divine perspective. God remembers Noah and acts according to his covenant. Yet the narrative then moves to Noah’s perspective who, as far as we know, has no tangible or audible evidence that God has in fact remembered him. However, our privileged perspective as the reader makes it clear—Noah’s waiting is not a sign that God has forgotten Noah. In all his waiting, God has remembered him, and God is acting to bring to pass what God has promised—even if Noah cannot yet see it. Ultimately, what God has promised is to make his world new again, evidenced by his causing a ruakh to blow across the waters and restraining the waters that the land might be dry again.

For all of his waiting and all of his attempts to discern when the land had dried, it is only when God commands him to come out that Noah’s wait is over. The reward of Noah’s wait is a new world—a point made by the parallel of verse 19 with the language of Genesis 1. Noah waits for God to say, “Come out of your refuge into a new world. Inherit the fullness of what was promised you.” This is a picture of Easter. Christ’s death has promised us safe passage through the waters of God’s judgement. The cross is the covenant in blood, better than the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 6.18. Christ’s resurrection has secured our destination—a forever new creation. Until then, we, like Noah, wait. We wait as time passes unexpectedly and painstakingly slow. Propaganda captures the sentiment poetically: ”We are sojourners living out what a past action bought us. With the knowledge that we have yet to see the fullness of what it got us.” But our wait does not mean that God has not remembered. In fact, the contrary is true. If we wait, we wait with an assured patience anchored to the resurrection of Christ in the past and reaching for our own resurrection in the future. One day, we will hear God speak, “Come out!” and we will walk in new life into a new creation where sin and death are no more, and we will finally and forever and fully receive all that God’s past promises present to us.