Patient obedience

Waiting is hard, even when we are waiting for God’s word to be fulfilled. Perhaps you are waiting for the fulfilment of a personal promise or to commence a ministry calling.  You can’t wait to get on with it but wonder whether it will ever happen.  We are all waiting for Christ’s return and the passage of time seems to reduce expectation and encourage mockery.

Read Genesis 7:1-10

God now instructs Noah to board the ark.  God explains that he has chosen Noah because he is distinctive. God has seen his righteousness. The instruction concerning creatures is repeated but there is now an additional bit of information.[1]  Noah is still to take pairs of animals but where those animals are “clean” he is to take seven pairs.  Note that the number seven is often symbolic of completeness and holiness in the Bible.[2] Additional clean animal pairings would provide for post flood sacrifices.[3] This would mean that would be spares of those kinds o that the aim of taking them into the ark -to keep their species alive – would be fulfilled (v1-3).

God now gives additional details about the Flood, its timing and its duration.  It is now close at hand, seven days away and the deluge will last for forty day. The result will be a blotting out of everything, the earth is to be cleansed (v4). Noah obeys and notice that there is never any suggestion of doubt or questioning even though the concept of a global flood and of rainfall would have been alien to him (v5).

Noah is now 600 years old.  At the end of chapter 5 when he fathered his children he had been closer to 500.  It is possible that it has been many years since God had first spoken to him. This would have required many years of patiently waiting whilst going about the task of building the ark and of warning his contemporaries of the coming judgement (v6).  Noah and his family obey God in every detail, going onto the ark and taking the animals with them (v7-9). God keeps his word, the flood comes within a week (v10).

While you wait

Noah is an example of faith. He receives news from God that would have not been easy to hear, understand or accept but he clearly trusted God and believed his word.  There would potentially have been a long period of time between God announcing judgement and the Flood coming but Noah patiently waited for God’s Word to be fulfilled. This was not a passive sitting around, during the time he was active preparing and preaching.

How do we use the time while we wait, whether for a personal promise/calling to be fulfilled or for Christ’s return. Are we “redeeming the time”? Are we both patiently trusting and urgently warning? Are we using every day God gives us to serve him an speak for him?

[1] The difference between the instruction in chapter 6 and in chapter 7 has led some to conclude that these are duplicate and conflicting accounts. C.F.  Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 167-169. It is possible that the final editor (I follow tradition and believe it to be Moses) drew on multiple sources when putting together the final account.  This has certainly had strong support in academic scholarship.  The dominant theory for some time was that there were four sources, J,D, E  &P. Each source represented a particular tradition. J emphasised Yahweh/Jehovah as the name for God with E continuing to refer to God as Elohim.  D stand for Deuteronomist and P for Priestly -representing other schools of tradition.  This source theory tends to assume a late (possibly post-exile) dating of the Torah.  It has been criticised for laying artificial and anachronistic criteria on the text.  I am comfortable with the possibility that Moses drew on different sources but find it unconvincing that a final editor would place passages close together without spotting obvious errors or contradictions.  Nor do I think that we need to assume contradiction here.  Rather, there is additional information given which builds on chapter 6.

[2] The mention of clean and unclean creatures here is intriguing because the kosher laws have bot been given yet.  Those who follow the JDEP source theory argue that the writer at this point has a particular concern for the Levitical tradition and so reads the Law back into the story.  It is possible that the account has been stylistically structured for Israelite ears where the hearers would be familiar with the kosher requirements.  However, we should also consider the possibility that those kosher requirements whilst codified by Moses were already practiced prior to Sinai as with circumcision.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 177.

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