A long, long time ago there was a man named Noah. He was basically the only Disney prince on earth and as God looked down upon the world, Noah was the only one who brought a twinkle to God’s eye. The author of Genesis tells us that God decided the best thing to do would be to wipe the world clean with a great flood and start over. Only, this time, he would start over with a man already formed and created.
God calls down to Noah and issues him a charge – build a great large boat and, along with your whole family and two of every animal you own, board that boat and take up residence there for quite a long time. At least until the rain subsides.
He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. - Genesis 8:12
I am really not a fan of waiting. My coffee shop always takes too long to fix my coffee; the red light is always a little too slow; and oh man do not even get me started if an internet page takes just a little longer to load than normal. These are simple examples and though I may exaggerate a little on my impatience here, what is even harder is when these thing I’m waiting for hold even more importance.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with a pseudotumor cerebri, which was essentially a fake tumor in my brain. For several months I had growing symptoms of having a tumor without much explanation as to what was happening. After the diagnosis and rapid treatment (a spinal tap which served as the initial cure), I had to see my doctor once a month and then once every three months and then a couple times a year until she felt content that my pseudotumor was not returning and I was cleared from her office. While I acknowledge that this medical issue was always benign and there are certainly people with far worse diagnoses, waiting for the results of yet another blood panel or MRI was never a pleasant experience. As soon as the blood was drawn, I was anxious to find out the results. I needed to know that the pseudotumor had not returned, that I was still healthy. When the test results would return negative, I would schedule my next appointment, often leaving the office wondering if when I returned in 4, 6, or 8 weeks if my test results would still be negative.
Genesis 7 and 8 tells of Noah, on a mission from God, building a giant boat for a rainstorm that will cover the entire earth. Here in southern California we have been preparing for El Nino rain – perhaps the worst bout of El Nino this region has seen in many years. People are digging trenches, purchasing sand bags, and stocking up on rain boots and umbrellas. Yet this rain has been nothing compared to what Noah experienced. For forty days, Noah, his family and all of their animals stayed inside their ark, protected from the elements, and waiting for God to reveal the time it would be safe to open the door. While we have no documentation of what exactly happened on that boat for forty days, we can sure bet they weren’t binge watching Making a Murderer. They waited. They were obedient and they waited.
What is most striking, however, is what happens after Noah sends out the first bird to investigate. After initially sending out a raven, Noah sends out a dove but the dove could not find any dry ground. Noah seems to be a patient man because he waits seven days before he sends out the dove again. He doesn’t do what most of us might do – perhaps receiving the dove back and instantly sending it back out, “Okay, God, I know just two minutes ago you said no to right now, but…how about now?!” Verse ten tells us that after the dove goes out and returns a second time, Noah waits another seven days before sending the dove out a third time. I’m pretty sure after the first dove went out, I would have been stomping my feet, begging God to let us out as soon as possible and to give me every possible explanation as to why he has delayed.
In our culture of instant information access, hyperconnectivity, and a multitude of Netflix shows to eat up our time, it is no wonder we struggle to pause, to rest, and to wait and see how God will show up, because scripture promises us that he will. Perhaps the next time our ark situation presents itself, instead of running around to force a solution or continually begging God for information and a quick outcome, we would do well to “ride the boat”, if you will, wait a couple of days, and trust that the God who created the heavens and earth and still took a Sabbath, might also call us to Sabbath and rest in his provision and his care.
Let’s not miss the perceived silence and inactivity of God by trying to constantly send out yet another bird. Now, don’t get me wrong – God invites us to boldly approach the throne of grace and praises those who, like the persistent widow in the parable from Jesus, seek his face and provision no matter what. But God is also the Good Shepherd who leads his flock by still waters, inviting us to hear his voice, to sit back in the boat and to simply marvel at his glory, waiting for his perfect timing.