By Mary Wenzl
Genesis 6:9-8:19 was the subject of this week’s lesson. It covers the time period of “The Flood.” This is a well-known bible story that captured my attention as a child. It has been the subject of several Hollywood movies. These memories were with me as I studied this week’s bible passages, but I tried to give the scripture a “fresh look,” following Jen Wilkin’s (author of God of Creation, A Study of Genesis 1-11) suggestion. I love the way Jen has encouraged us to look outside the four corners of the page when studying scripture, to consider the “what ifs.” Applying this method of study gives a richness and depth to the traditional story of the flood that I never imagined before.
My “fresh look” at the story of the flood begins with Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah. He lived to the age of 969 years old, which means he probably died not too long before the rains started. By reviewing the information given in Genesis chapters 4-7, I have found the following relevant facts: Methuselah was 187 years old when he fathered Lamech, Noah’s father. He was 369 years old when Noah was born, 869 years old when Noah’s 3 sons were born, and 969 years old when he died, shortly before the flood began. Lamech was 182 years old when his son Noah was born, 682 years old when Noah’s sons were born, and 777 years old when he died, approximately 5 years before the flood began.
During the intervening 100 years after the birth of Noah’s first son, Noah has 2 more sons and builds the Ark. The scriptures do not tell us details of the relationship between Methuselah, Lamech and Noah, so my imagination helps fill in the possible missing information.
What if . . . Noah’s family followed the traditions of other families mentioned in the bible and stuck together, helping each other raise the next generations. Methuselah and Lamech were still alive when Noah’s sons were born and Noah started building the Ark. In fact, they were both alive for most of the time the Ark was being built. Did they help Noah, either by giving advice or actually physically pitching in to help with the building? And what about Noah’s sons, did they help build the Ark? It took up to 100 years for the Ark to be built after the birth of Noah’s sons, so it is reasonable to assume that they helped built it, working beside their father, perhaps even their grandfathers.
What if . . . Noah took such a long time to have his children (he was 500 yrs old before the first was born), because he had a hard time finding a suitable wife. Scriptures tell us that the people in the world had become very corrupt. Noah is said to have been a righteous man, a man of faith who walked with God. God decided to destroy the earth because it had become so corrupt, every thought of man was evil, and Noah and his family were the only ones to be spared by God because Noah was found to be righteous in God’s eyes. I imagine that Noah, being so different from his neighbors, would have felt like an outsider. Perhaps he was taunted by his neighbors for his lifestyle since it was different from theirs. That would have made it difficult to find a suitable wife. We are not told how old Noah was when he married so perhaps his wife was very young.
What we do know is that the most significant contribution Noah made in following God’s plans was to build the Ark. What I find most interesting is that this accomplishment was done when Noah was OLD. I am retired, age 67 years. I remember thinking as I entered my sixties and approached retirement age that I was on the downhill side of life. I was not expecting to accomplish anything of “greatness” in my senior years, thinking that my contribution to God’s plan or purposes for life would be limited. Reading the story of Noah shows me that God doesn’t think that way. He can use me at ANY age to accomplish his purposes. This gives me hope that my life is not over. There can still be excitement and purpose in life.
Jen Wilkin asks us to identify what aspects of God’s character are revealed by each week’s passage of Genesis. I found several characteristics in this week’s lesson. Although God is patient and long-suffering, He hates all unrighteousness. He finally reached His limit and would no longer put up with the corrupt, unrighteous ways of humankind. He had compassion though. He found Noah to be truly righteous, so he saved Noah and his family from destruction. (He was their Deliverer and their Refuge). In the end, God is Sovereign and Omnipotent. To me, the most significant character aspect exemplified in this week’s life was God’s sovereignty. “God does everything according to His plan and pleasure. He controls all things.”
Knowing this gives me hope that God WILL make my end years purposeful and even exciting. So, what if . . . I can be useful to God whether I am 67 years old, 70, 75, or 80+ years? My role is to remain faithful. Life still holds the promise of excitement!