I come from that part of the globe where natural disasters are a common place but I never got used to them. Witnessing destruction of an apocalyptic magnitude right before your very eyes left me horrified. One day the sky turned pitch black; the ground shook every minute; scary rumblings could be heard from afar; rocks, sand, and ashes pounded the roofs of houses like 10,000 marching soldiers; communications were cut; the air was heavy and suffocating due to sulfur dioxide brought by the winds and rains of Typhoon Yunya as Mt. Pinatubo, a once dormant volcano, began unleashing its fury at the same time on that fateful day of 1991. I was 17 and we were within the 40 km (24 miles) radius from the volcano’s summit. Destruction was unimaginable. Hundreds of lives were lost. When nature roars it terrifies us! Nations slump helplessly when undersea earthquakes trigger tsunamis that could kill hundreds of thousands of people. Remember the Asian tsunami in 2004 that killed over 230,000 people in 14 countries? Or the Japanese tsunami in 2011 that caused a nuclear meltdown and killed almost 16,000? Utter devastation! The saddest part is, we could not do anything to stop their onslaught. We watch in horror and are overwhelmed with grief. These calamities threaten and devastate us.
Equally devastating are the calamities that inundate our daily lives: marital infidelity; broken relationships; dysfunctional families; financial difficulties; depression, cancer or other life-threatening illnesses… name it! There seems to be an unbroken string of tragedies that destroys our lives… our relationship with ourselves, with others, and with our God. It is just overwhelming and sometimes we just feel like giving up. We feel like we had had enough of life. We who are in the ministry are not spared from all these. I must admit that I have thought of giving up on my ministry because of a lot of reasons and perhaps you did too.
God must have felt the same way when He decided to destroy humanity and all creation. He was in deep agony because of humanity’s wickedness. He grieves! Oh yes, God is in anguish! Imagine, only Noah was found righteous before Him. Who wouldn’t grieve? Who wouldn’t get mad? It seemed that God could no longer view his creation and say, “and it was good”, (“and it was excellent” in some translations). Creation defiled itself. And the only way to restore it is to destroy it.
Noah must have dreaded the time when finally God asked him to enter the ark that God commanded him to build. I believe Noah too was in deep distress of heart despite the fact that he and his family and all the animals they gathered were spared from annihilation. How can a man be jubilant about the sufferings of others? They were after all his people. It was after all his home. He couldn’t rejoice, he could only trust and obey God’s words.
God did not relent. Creation needs to be purged! Forty days and forty nights of continuous rains. I wonder what it was like for Noah and his family to live inside the ark hearing all the noises as the super typhoon or perhaps a series of category 5 hurricanes become stronger by the minute and the winds howl like a mad man. You hear the sound of rising flood waters – rushing and smashing the ark and finally lifting it to wander aimlessly in that vast ocean that used to be their home. The great flood destroyed everything. The first creation was no more.
But all is not lost – God preserved Noah and his family and all the animals with them! He saved them from utter destruction. He was with them through the storm. He was with them through the flood. God used the ark to protect them just like how He preserved and protected the life of baby Moses through the papyrus basket – floating by the river Nile and saved for a greater purpose.
Noah, his family, and the animals are a remnant of the goodness of the first creation. God looked beyond the destruction brought by the flood for He saw an obedient heart. Several times in the text it was mentioned that Noah obeyed everything that God had commanded him to do. An obedient heart satisfies the heart of God. God knew that saving Noah is not enough to restore creation. He saved his family as well. God is into the business of restoring not just a person but restoring relationships. Even the animals – two by two, male and female! God’s salvation is for all of creation. I can picture Him smiling as He looks at the floating ark with Noah and his family and all the animals in it, saying again, “and it was good”, “and it was excellent”.
The story of Noah teaches us that God’s love is furious! Think of how a hen protects her chicks from predators. She fights back! God’s love fights back. This is the most powerful demonstration of God’s love – though it destroys it preserves! He will crush anything that brings defilement to His creation.
Friends, I also believe that the Lord is saying the same way to all of us today. There are a lot of things going on in our lives that we feel so burdened and stressed as if it is the end of the world. As church ministers, we are so overwhelmed with the tasks at hand and at the same time we have families to attend to; bills to pay; and as students, books to read and papers to finish. But in the midst of all these, we know that His grace is sufficient for us and He will come and save us!
His love makes us resilient just like Noah in the midst of the flood. The ark was so tiny compared to the great flood – but the good news is, the ark floated! It did not sink! And just like the ark that floated and saved Noah, God’s love is the buoyancy of our hope. There is hope in the midst of despair. There is restoration in the midst of loss. There is love in the midst of hatred. There is wholeness in brokenness. There is forgiveness… there is mercy… there is grace.
Several months ago, we have heard of another school shooting in the state of Washington. Jaylen Fryberg, a highschool student, shot his friends – the people he loved, before shooting himself. One of the teenagers that he shot is Nate Hatch, his cousin. Nate survived thankfully and posted a powerful message for Jaylen on his twitter account that touched my heart. He said, “I love you and I forgive you Jaylen. Rest in peace!” That’s the love of God right there! Love floats in chaos. Grace sails with crisis.
God’s love forgives even though it hurts Him. His love saves even though it meant His death on the cross. His resurrection is for our restoration!
– I preached this sermon in one of our preaching classes at United Theological Seminary. Text is Genesis 7:1-18