Let’s continue my reflections on preaching Noah cross-culturally at TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali (TPM), the Nepali-speaking church that I pastor in the Chicago area.
As the story of Noah is told, one of the questions that naturally arises is regarding the selection of Noah. Why was he chosen? One text says that God saw that Noah was righteous in his generation (Gen. 7:1). It might be natural to take this to mean that God chose Noah because of his righteousness. It may be that this was true to a certain extent. Perhaps Noah’s life prior to God’s calling was indeed exemplary. However, as I preached through this story, I found it important to emphasize Noah’s faith. This is the emphasis of Hebrews 11:7,
“By faith, Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.”
So, while I did speak about Noah’s obedience, my emphasis was that he heard the Word of God, believed, and obeyed it. That ultimately, Noah was saved because he had faith. For the author of Hebrews, it was Noah’s faith that distinguished him from the rest of the world more than anything else.
After emphasizing Noah’s faith – Noah believed and obey the word of God – I spent time answering the question, “What was happening while the boat (ark) was being built?”
1. God was waiting patiently for the people to repent (1 Pt. 3:20)
2. Noah was preaching God’s word and will (righteousness) to the people (2 Pt. 2:5)
3. The people of that generation were paying no attention whatsoever (Lk. 17:27)
After taking time to answer this question – painting a picture of life during the construction through our improvisational drama team – I recounted that God sealed Noah’s family and the animals in the boat. The flood came. Those in the boat were saved. Those out of the ark perished.
Of course, this historically true story provided me with an apt metaphor for our times. I spoke briefly about God’s coming final judgment against all evil and corruption in the world. I helped the audience see that God had once again provided a way of salvation for all people – the Lord Jesus. And told everyone that again God was waiting patiently, that the word of God was being proclaimed to them, and that they shouldn’t be like Noah’s generation. They should believe and obey God’s word. They should, as it were, get in the boat.
In this case, the metaphor was more than apt; it was penetrating. What stands out to me was on older Nepali man, not yet a Christ-follower, who began speaking to the whole group about how this takes time – deciding to follow Jesus. He wasn’t disagreeing with the message at all. It was actually quite powerful to me to see that the message had hit him so hard that he felt compelled to essentially announce to everyone (perhaps even to God) his need for more time. For him, I feel the need to warn. But I also take comfort in my patient God who waits, even now.