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 (Manna 64: Dealing with Calamities)
Within the Ark
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Within the Ark

Sharon Chang—Brisbane, Australia

            In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights. (Gen 7:11–12)

The ark rocked furiously at every sweep of the gigantic waves. The deafening roar of thunder accompanying the fearsome storm. Incessant rain pelting the roofs and the windows echoing through the gopherwood vessel. Huge boulders swept by the raging currents. Uprooted trees, perhaps even mighty oaks, crashing against each other … yet not quite drowning out the terrified screams of drowning humanity….

Have you ever wondered what was going through Noah’s mind?

IMAGINE NOAH’S JOY…

Perhaps his mind was not even on the external tumult because inside the ark, there was another symphony of nature resounding ... the sounds of “seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female” (Gen 7:2–3).

But amidst the turbulence, I reckon Noah would have been at peace. Despite the cacophony, Noah would have felt so very blessed …

     … because his beloved wife was with him within the ark.
There were probably times when Noah got restless from being cooped up for so long or became frustrated with managing all those animals. But the one closest to him would understand; she would help him manage the family. Importantly, because they both worshipped the same God, she would comfort and remind him that their heavenly Father was in charge and knew what He was doing. She would tell him that they were so blessed to be safe. And his faith would be restored. (cf. Eccl 4:9,10)

      … because his sons were within the ark.
Noah would have been devastated if he himself were in the ark but knew that the three young men in their prime, whom he and Mrs. Noah had spent so much effort to bring up, were out there in that catastrophic flood. Though he was snug and safe, his mind would have been in turmoil imagining his sons struggling, gasping for breath, and dying, dying … slowly, agonizingly…. But now, he could see them walking round, helping to feed the animals, doing minor repairs and keeping the ark clean. He would be proud, thinking, “Good, they are doing their part to thank the Lord God who saved us.” (cf. Jer 35:18,19)

      because his daughters-in-law were within the ark.
Had his daughters-in-law refused to go in, his sons would have been so torn—to stay with their faithless wives or to follow their godly parents into the ark? Then, after the flood, with the entire human race destroyed, what would his sons do to establish their families? From where would come godly offspring to revere and honor the Creator who had delivered them? No, Noah had no worries on that score. Undoubtedly, Noah’s daughters-in-law would also have had their own tough decisions to make. Their own families must have been among the unbelieving multitude who mocked Noah as they built their huge ark amidst dry, good weather. But like Ruth, who came generations after them, these women made the right choice to enter the ark. (cf. Ruth 1:16,14–22)

      because they could gather everyday
to thank God for calling them, preserving them, and continuing to sustain them. Even living so close to all sorts of animals, with no ‘fresh air’ since the Lord God “shut him in” (Gen 7:16), they were in good spirits and health. In fact, since they were all in the ark, any time, anyone of them felt that they had a good testimony to share, they could just gather together to remember the Almighty God’s grace. And such frequent gathering together would be a great opportunity for Noah to really pass on his solid faith to his ‘boys’. He would tell them again the story they all loved from young—about their great grandfather Enoch who never died but was just taken up to heaven suddenly. (cf. Heb 10:25)

      because they could serve the Lord together.
Noah loved serving his God but it was hard work, first building the ark, and now, running a ‘floating zoo’. But when the people you love and who love you work alongside you, somehow the hours fly by.

            Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. (Gen 6:14–15)

God’s instructions were specific and plans good—but still it would take energy, time and dedication to make it a reality. It was a good thing that Noah had his family to help him. In turn, Noah would have also derived joy seeing each son (or daughter-in-law) put his (and her) individual talent to good use. Perhaps one started off not being very good at his or her allocated task; but as the days went by, with Noah’s encouragement, he or she improved. With familial love as their guiding principle, they could expect fewer quarrels about who should do more, or who was shirking or who should be made ‘Captain of the Ark’ and so on. All did their best because they were going to be on the same boat! (cf. Mt 18:19–20)

      because they could quickly resolve differences.
Just as we sometimes accidentally bite our tongue or lips, even the closest of siblings or the mildest or most loving parents and children have conflicts. Often these blow over. But occasionally, some get blown out of proportion. Hurtful words are said. Cold wars begin. Noah’s family was not perfect. Little squabbles would have arisen from time to time; perhaps even a serious bust-up or two. But the reality was that no-one could throw a huge tantrum and threaten to move out after these quarrels. Running from the storm within would literally land one up in the storm outside! As wise patriarch, Noah would then have got the different parties to calmly sit down, work things out AND forgive each other. “Look,” he’d say, “we have all types of ANIMALS peacefully coexisting. It’d be embarrassing if we HUMANS couldn’t.” And they would reconcile. Had they not, the atmosphere in the ark would have been terrible and no-one knew when they would be getting out. After all, God just told them the rains would last forty days and nights. He did not tell them how long it would take the water to subside. The wonderful thing about being of the same faith was that they could kneel down together, raise their faces towards that solitary window and ask the heavenly Father to take away the cold hard knot of anger and reignite the spark of family love. (cf. Col 3:12–21)

      because they could ALL look forward to a new world.
It had been almost a year from the day that God had shut them in (Gen 7:11) to when they finally emerged (Gen 8:13). In that time, there would definitely have been days when things just became really difficult—uncooperative animals, unhappy family members and a particularly rocky boat. Perhaps, like children, Ham, Shem or Japheth had fretted, “How much longer? When will we get there, Dad?” Perhaps one of the spouses murmured in private, “Is your father really sure that there will be a better tomorrow for us?”
During such moments of doubt, mutual encouragement to focus on the Lord’s providence would have been critical. Being of one faith, the stronger would remind the weaker to focus on how every word of God had been fulfilled thus far. Those who had mocked and jeered them as they built the ark were no more. Those who had caroused and sinned while the Noah family practiced self-control had been swept away. Brought up to worship one Lord, they would remind each other of the stories of the beautiful garden of Eden. God had created vastness from emptiness once. He was going to do it again. And they—blessed above all families—had been chosen to be the first family in this new world.

Then it happened! The ark finally docked at Mount Ararat. But patience was still needed. It would be another forty days before the waters sufficiently subsided.

“Not long now, not long now…” you can almost hear Noah reassuring them as he released his weekly bird, “God has already brought us so far. Trust Him. It’ll be worth it.” (cf. Heb 11; 12:1–3, 12–14)

And finally the day came—the long-awaited sound of His voice and the words:

            Then God spoke to Noah, saying, “Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.”

            So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark. (Gen 8:15–16, 18)

The Noah family must have oohed and aahed as they emerged—How bright! How fresh the air! How beautiful the new world!

And when God painted the first rainbow … they would have been stunned into silence, clutching each other in excitement. The pleasure of a beautiful sunset or a special event would be much reduced if there were no-one to share it with. For the Noah family, the pleasure was 7-fold!

LESSONS FROM WITHIN THE ARK

There are many lessons to be drawn from the flood at Noah’s time. But a critical one is the great comfort and joy that can be derived from sharing with one’s family one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit and one hope. A loving earthly family provides irreplaceable warmth and emotional fulfillment. But a loving earthly family in the Lord can additionally supply spiritual ballast—intercession in times of difficulty, mutual encouragement and motivation to reach the eternal heavenly home.

At this point, some of us do not yet have our entire family within the ark. Some of our families may still vehemently oppose our faith; some others are tolerant but do not want us to evangelize to them. It is natural to be discouraged if we are rejected (or even persecuted) whenever we try to share the gospel. But we cannot afford to give up. We must remind ourselves that those not in the ark have zero chance of survival! Puny humans were no match for the gigantic waves in Noah’s time; they are no match for the tsunami of sin and wickedness in our world today. So we have to tirelessly try to bring them in. Cling on to the biblical promise that our loving Father does not want anyone to perish, and continually intercede for them. Abraham had no qualms respectfully bargaining with God because Lot and his family meant so much to him. Surely, our families mean just as much, if not more!

While continuing our efforts, let us not focus on immediate results. The Lord Jesus Himself had to overcome his siblings’ disbelief slowly through His unceasing love and ultimate sacrifice. So He knows exactly what we have to go through and, if we cast our burden of bringing our unbelieving families onto Him, He can do marvelous things for us.

However, we should also imitate Him by being a shining example of Christian virtues within our families. Human beings are wont to compare. It will be much more difficult to convince our family of God’s love if our atheist or Buddhist relative behaves so much better than us—be it in word or deed. It may be stressful feeling that we cannot even relax and ‘be ourselves’ at home but, if we submit to Him, the Holy Spirit can truly transform us into the flavorful salt of the earth.

This is also where church members—the larger family in Christ—can play a part. When our brethren bring their non-believing family members to church, we should go out of our way to make them feel at home. They may not be very friendly towards us given their preconceived notions of Christians and the True Jesus Church. Again, the Lord Jesus understands. When He first approached the Samaritan woman, her response was somewhat sarcastic. But He persisted in drawing her out of her shell. So when we too persevere in this work of supporting our sole-believer brethren, the Lord will help us in this task.

For those who do have their families in the ark—never, never take such grace for granted. Ancient sages believed that family wealth would not last beyond three generations—the first generation earns the wealth, the second grows it, the third spends it all! It may not literally be three generations but the implicit warning is that affluence may breed complacency, and if not managed, deteriorates into wastefulness. The same holds true for the precious asset of our faith. We may be the fourth or fifth generation of True Jesus Church believers in our families but we shall be the last generation if we do not make sure that our children believe that being in the ark is better than being outside.

Some members are puzzled why their teenage children are disengaging from church although they have gone through the full Religious Education system. There are many factors leading to this outcome. But the most common one is the parents’ own manifestation of faith at home. What is our behavior signaling to our children? Do we tell them it is fine to skip Sabbath service to study during examination periods? Have we been too busy to keep an eye on the company they keep, the websites they visit and even the language they use? Remember the warnings from the stories of Eli’s and Aaron’s sons.

If our whole family enjoys the Lord’s grace, thank God constantly for preserving our faith so far. But labor diligently so that our faith and the faith of our fathers will truly become the faith of our children and their children. It is not just the duty of the religious education teachers to grow our children’s faith. Like Noah, we all have to make the effort to keep everyone within the ark.

            Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Phil 4:6)

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Author: Sharon Chang
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