One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, pointed out in a recent book that the story of Noah's ark is not really a kid's story. This is so true. We try to make it into one. I guess the pairs of animals just seem so cuddly and kid-friendly.
Our daughter, Janel, who is now in college at UK, once had a Noah's Ark-themed room. Wallpaper border, an ark lamp, a bunch of cool figurines - she had the works. Noah looked happy, the animals looked happy, everybody was happy.
But when you really think about it, the story of Noah and his ark is a major tragedy. Millions of people, animals and plants were killed in a worldwide flood. God's creation had broken his heart to the point he decided to start over. Creation as it had been was totally wiped out. Then the hero of the story ends up drunk and naked.
Now, our daughter had a Noah figurine. He had a gray beard and a raincoat, but there is no way I'd shell out $16.99 for a drunken, naked Noah figurine - nor do I want a figurine of a bloated, drowned guy.
This is not a story for children at all.
Noah was the one good guy in all of humanity whom God was pleased with. Everyone else was obsessed with doing evil. So God decided to flood the earth and save only Noah and his family and the animals. Noah takes on a second job as a boat-building preacher, trying to convince everybody to straighten up and come on board before it's too late.
Now, like all things biblical, there are many differing views concerning this familiar story. There are arguments about whether the story is about a literal flood or not. Whether the flood was worldwide or just partial. Whether a boat could hold that many critters. Whether those cagey Russians are now hiding the boat.
All of these arguments miss the real point of the story. The real point is Noah's unflinching, uncompromising obedience to God.
Noah starts to work on this boat God has told him to construct right on dry land. There are no streams, lakes or seas nearby. There is no way of towing the ark to water. Yet there he is, working away on this boat he says will save mankind. He starts talking about rain and a great flood. Since creation, there had never been a flood that we know of, and there are some theologians who say that it had never rained. They contend that the earth was watered with just a mist, like those days in late fall when the weather can't seem to make up its mind.
And then there are the animals. With complete disregard for zoning laws, he starts collecting all these animals. If you think your neighbor's dog in annoying, what if he had a yak?
The Bible tells us that Noah was a respected man in the community at one time. Can you imagine what the neighbors were saying when all this started? "The man has lost his mind." "No, he didn't just tell me to stop being evil - don't judge me, you don't know me!" "If that wildebeest craps in my yard one more time. ..." In spite of all this, Noah did what God asked him to do.
How is our obedience level? Is there anything that you feel God is wanting you to do? Anything that you should pick up - or lay down? Is there a service or a calling that you feel God drawing you into? Are you responding to the call or ignoring it? Maybe you've halfway done what God has asked you to do, or maybe you'll try to get to it later.
When we halfway do something that God has called us to do, this is partial obedience. When we put off something that we know God showing us, this is delayed obedience. This is no way for us to approach a relationship with God. Jesus did not die for us to become halfway- or sometimes-Christians. Partial obedience and delayed obedience are really just disobedience.
If Noah had approached things this way, putting off his job of boat-building or just building a tiny raft, his family would have died - and with his family, the whole second-chance human race would have also perished. The impact of one man's disobedience was huge - and tragic.
When we refuse to listen to God, the impact is just as tragic. There are people all around us who are in desperate need of rescue. We see them every day, on our jobs, in the mall, in grocery stores, in our homes. If we are not obedient, if we are not serious about our mission of rescue, if we ignore the call or put it off - these people will die.
So, when you feel that calling in your spirit, no matter what it is, respond immediately. God may be calling you to deepen your relationship with him. He may be calling you to step out and begin a ministry that is brand-new. He may be calling you to become a foreign missionary. He may be calling you to work with troubled teens, to work with senior citizens, to keep nursery in your church, or to take a Bundt cake to your neighbor.
God gives us so many opportunities every day to serve him by serving others. We just have to be willing and obedient when he calls. We are surrounded by those in need of rescue. Don't wait until the flood comes.
Whatever the calling, don't delay - there are lives in the balance.
Joe Jenkins is the pastor of Community Christian Center in Lynch. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org