Forty Days and Forty Nights
It wasn’t difficult to choose tonight’s topic. First of all, it seems like it has rained in central Indiana for 40 days and 40 nights. Several days ago I wrote about the lack of sun during the month of April (Where’s the Sun), and then my last post had to do with the many instances of numbers appearing in the Bible. Voila – the story of the Flood!
This particular story is one that most of us have heard about since our earliest childhoods, so rather than recount the entire episode, I thought I would key on several of the more interesting parts of Noah and the ark. To begin with, many theologians believe that it took Noah more than 120 years to build the ark. And then, notice that Noah and his family entered the ark 7 days before the rain started. Generally, this was consistent with the process of setting the priests apart and making them “clean” when the laws were revealed later in Leviticus. So perhaps, God was setting Noah and his family apart – which would make sense; since God was going to re-populate the earth through the family of Noah and He had referred to Noah as blameless, (notice God did not say sinless – because there were no sinless people) when we are first introduced to the story.
Another interesting fact is that as children, we learned that the animals entered the ark two by two – and that is true with the “unclean” animals, but the Scriptures tell us that there were seven of every “clean animal” taken on the ark. This could be so that the clean animals would multiply faster, as they were used in the sacrifices. This was not as critical for the unclean animals since they were not sacrificed.
And when the flood started, we are told that the water came from from below and from above. In other words, the earth actually opened up and the water came from great underground reservoirs as the earth started to flood. Since the water came from above as well, this would signify the first time in the Bible that we are told that it rained! It is generally believed that before this, the earth’s atmosphere was very humid and that there was no rain, at least as we know it – the plants, etc. were able to get their nourishment from the humid environment.
We don’t have much information about what happened in the ark while it was being carried by the waves. But the Bible is quite clear that God intended to destroy all the creatures on the face of the earth. So that included all the land animals and also all the people. It must have been very unnerving for Noah and his family to know that all people and all animals – everything that had the breath of life in it, where drowning – notice that this did not include the fish of the sea. Apparently, they continued to live, because they didn’t consume air!
And when the the rains stopped, and Noah and his family had been in the ark forty days, Noah released a raven – presumably in the hope of finding land if the waters had receded enough for the tops of the mountains to be exposed. But the raven did not return to the ark. This could very well be because ravens are carnivores – meat eaters – and with all the carcasses floating in the water, the raven would have had enough food to live outside the ark. Then Noah released a dove, which returned to the ark – signifying, that as a vegetarian, there was no food to sustain it, (and no place to set it’s feet), meaning that the land was not yet sustaining life. But seven days later, Noah released the dove again, and this time it returned with an olive twig in it’s beak – meaning the water had started to recede and the land was now producing vegetation.
When Noah and his family finally reached land and got out of the ark, they built an alter to God and made a sacrifice to Him. God found the sacrifice pleasing and entered into what we refer to as the Noahic covenant – a promise by God to never completely destroy the earth again with water. In fact, God set His rainbow in the sky as a “sign” of the covenant, and so we are assured, even today, that God will not destroy the earth again with water. And then the re-population of the earth started……
The verse tonight is from Gen. 9:1, “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” And God is still blessing us today. So my encouragement tonight it to remind you that God is remembering us the same way He remembered Noah. He wants us to be set apart, just like Noah and His family were set apart in the ark. And my prayer is that God will continue to bless us just as He blessed Noah. Because we can be tempted into sin, just like any other people throughout the ages – even Noah got drunk after he planted a vineyard; although God had saved him and his family from certain death by sealing them up into the ark. And it is my additional prayer that God will continue to seal us and keep us out of the reach of harm, as we continue to try and do His will on earth. Grace and Peace….