Monday, December 3, 2012

Jesse Tree Day 3 - Noah

I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’ -- Genesis 9:11-17
It must have been the ending to a very hard period of time for poor Noah. Going along, minding his own business, being a good neighbor, and BOOM! Here's this voice telling him to build a huge boat in his back yard. There's no big body of water close by, and the size of the boat would have daunted a small modern construction company much less one man and a few relatives. Can you imagine what the neighbors thought?  I know, Bill Cosby did in a classic comedy routine, but really, can you imagine it? 

Then, when he gets it finished (hopefully on time and under budget), he's told to fill it with animals. Huh. Animals -- with all the accompanying dietary necessities. God didn't really explain what to do with what the leftovers were of all those dietary necessities. Next here comes the rain and here come the neighbors who had been poking fun at him all this time. Suddenly they wanted in -- and Noah just shut the door on them. The voyage must have been what kids would call hairy; lots of water, lots of time, lots of...  Sending out a bird every so often, he finally gets one that comes back with an olive twig so at least the trees are partially out of hte water and starting to grow again. The last one didn't come back at all so it was time to open the doors and see where they were. On top of a mountain, great. What to do for dinner among all the rocks and whathaveyou. God puts a lovely rainbow up in the sky as a sign that the episode is over and won't be repeated.  And they all lived happily ever after.  Oh, wait, sorry, that's another story.
Rainbows are lovely things, double ones even more so.  Kids like to draw them in pictures and even skeptical adults might have to say that they are beautiful phenomena.  But how true is the Noah story?  Did God really say that floods would never again wipe out all flesh?  It makes it hard when there are so many floods worldwide every year where many lives are lost. Does that mean that God only promised not to wipe out the whole earth and that the little more localized ones were part of the cost of doing business?  Or was it just an etiological story, one on how things came to be named, started or the like? It wasn't even totally original -- most cultures had flood legends. What made it different was that it was a covenant with God, a pact with one man and his family, a choosing of these people to be God's special people, even before the official adoption of Abraham and his descendants.
As an etiological story, a story dealing with beginnings, how something started, how it came to be named, etc., it's a good one about how we got rainbows. It's also a good story about what it means to listen and do what you're told, no matter how odd it seems (odd?  How about downright goofy?) or what the neighbors would say.

So what do I learn from Noah?  It may be inconvenient or even outrageous, but if God says it, it's probably the best thing to go with it.

Listen attentively.


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