Keeping the Faith
Someone I know regularly says to me “when will it all end?”, and of course he is talking about the lockdown, and I tend to offer my take on the fact that 11 months or so on and ‘we are getting there’- infections, hospitalisations and deaths are thankfully all sharply down- and around 20% of our population have now received the vaccine. This is all great news of course but it still means that for now we must continue “Hands. Face. Space.”
However, the continued lockdown is still a real burden on peoples’ lives especially on their already fragile mental health, and at this time I think we need to look towards those great people of faith who had to endure similar or worse conditions, who got through them and what their experience and sacrifice can mean to us here today in 2021.
For me you need look no further than the great man that was Noah (Genesis 5-9). He was the ninth descendant of Adam and Eve and a truly great patriarch who was said to be “a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).
As we know at this time -which was probably in what we now know as the Bronze age (maybe 4,000 BC or so)-God saw that the earth was so corrupt and filled with violence that He decided to destroy it and all of mankind, and to begin again with Noah and his family.
But that required Noah to build an Ark for him, his family, and the earth’s animals to survive in, whilst the world perished around them. Now you can imagine that when he and his family started to build this incredible vessel that he must have been mocked, ridiculed, and declared mad or worse and at a conservative estimate it is believed that it took them around 70-75 years to build the ark. Imagine the kind of things that would have been said of him and to him during those decades. Yet he persisted because he was a man of faith and knew what God said would happen, would come to pass. In fact, you can now get t-shirts with the inscription “They thought Noah was a conspiracy theorist. And then it began to rain.” However, Noah was no conspiracy theorist, but was a great man of faith who did what God asked of him.
The finished Ark must have been a magnificent vessel just to look at let alone be on, but we know from Genesis that it was 450 feet long, 75 foot wide and 45 foot high. To give you an idea of its size its length was greater than the height of ‘Big Ben’, was around twice the size of a Boeing 747 plane and inside it could accommodate 17 Olympic size swimming pools or over 125,000 sheep!
However, what is the connection between the current lockdown and Noah? I think it is that most theologians have come to the view that the Bible’s account of the Ark is that Noah and his family and the animals were on the Ark for around 370 days or so. Our lockdown is, as I write this, around 330 days and counting, but there are vastly important differences between the two experiences.
Guess what? the Ark did not have Wi-Fi, there was nothing to download during their year plus voyage waiting for the seas to recede- nothing to view or to listen to apart from natural scenes, to take away what must have been excessive boredom at times. Although the Ark was a 3 storey vessel it is believed to have had only 1 window and either a roof or basic skylight so you can imagine with all the animals on board it’s sanitary conditions would have been very basic, and can you imagine the smell!
Noah and his family were not young people either. Noah was 600 years old when the Ark was built, his sons were around 100 years old themselves, so these were not young adventurers . The faith they must have had waiting for that moment when the winds and sea would die down to allow them to encounter some kind of land to renew the earth must have been extraordinary and also very lonely as they were the only humans left in the world.
In comparison with our lockdown of getting on for 12 months now, although the demands and restrictions on us have been very significant, we have -unless self- isolating- always been able to take some exercise outside, to talk to people either in a socially distanced way or by telephone or via the likes of Zoom. Through the modern miracle of broadband and Wi-Fi we can pretty much listen to or view almost anything (maybe too much?) whilst we await for more people to be vaccinated and for the time when we can finally return to some kind of normality.
Noah and his family can show us the way to get through this current crisis- they had huge reserves of patience and faith, and finally when Noah sent a dove out across the oceans it returned with an olive leaf telling him at last that land was nearby. God rewarded them and mankind with his covenant sealed by the magical rainbow in the sky and if we keep our patience and faith, we too will get there.