Robert E. Lemon, Treasurer General Conference of SDA
Summary: As church leaders we spend much time preaching, teaching, and working to save others. But it is very easy to spend time saving others and yet be lost ourselves. As we look at and learn from the story of Noah, imagine with me what it would be like to have been there!
A huge building project
As church leaders, we spend much time preaching, teaching, and working to save others. But it is very easy to spend time saving others and yet be lost ourselves. As we look at and learn from the story of Noah, imagine with me what it would be like to have been there!
The earth had become so wicked that God decided He must destroy it with water. In Genesis 6:13-14, God gives Noah instructions to build an ark of safety. Imagine what it was like that night in Noah’s home—Noah and his wife sitting at their kitchen table, going over the plans. It is a huge project, and they know they cannot do it by themselves. Noah is 480 years old and does not have any children yet. He cannot call the local lumber yard to order the wood he needs. He has no chain saw to cut down trees. Clearly, he needs helpers to build the ark.
Picture the ark as it is being built on the side of a beautiful hill near Noah’s home. There is a lovely view of the valley below, lined with a small stream. The ark is not built next to a lake where it can be tested. Today we build boats near water so we can lower them in to see if they float. If there is a problem, we get into the lifeboat or swim ashore. But Noah has to build the ark right the first time, for he will not get a chance to make repairs. Because of this, Noah doesn’t want just any carpenters to build the ark.
The test flight
While in college, a friend and I decided to build an airplane. We were both pilots. I had about 400 hours of flying and my friend had nearly 80. You needed about 40 hours to get your pilot’s license. We got the plans for a Tin Ginny all-aluminum single seater, with a modified Volkswagen engine. My friend’s cousin was nearly finished with his Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering and helped us build the plane. He was not a pilot, but was obviously much better qualified to build the plane than we were. In building an airplane, you must keep a log book of every weld, rivet, screw, and piece that you put on the plane, and initial the work you do. Then, at various points in the construction, an inspector from the Federal Aviation Administration inspects the work.
We worked on the plane on weeknights and Sundays for about a year. My friend was going to fly the plane first, because he paid two thirds of the cost and I paid one third. It was exciting as we neared completion. The last inspection was done, and we only needed to put on the covers that enclosed the inspection points, and the plane would be ready for the test flight.
I will never forget that evening my friend came to my house. He said, “Some of my friends think you should fly the plane first, since you have more flying experience.” Now, I intended to fly the plane, but only after he had flown it and I knew it worked! When he left, I vividly remember going to the garage to go through the log book. I looked for all the work my friend’s cousin had done. He was a much better engineer than either of us, but as he was not a pilot and this was a one-seater, he would never be flying in it! I did not check the work my friend had done. He was going to fly in the plane. But I wanted to check everything his cousin had done. He might have been in a hurry some Sunday to get to a ball game with his girlfriend or something, and might not have done a weld as carefully as he should have. Or may-be he didn’t put a lock nut on some pulley that he was installing.
Carpenters at work
Noah looked for carpenters who would be in the ark with them. I imagine him going through the list of people he knew to decide who would want to be saved in the ark with them. He needed good carpenters, but, carpenters who wanted to be in the ark!
One hundred and twenty years is a long time to work on a project. As the ark starts to take shape, word begins to spread about the crazy old man who is building a ship where there is no water. People said he was predicting that water would fall from heaven and flood the entire earth. I imagine Noah standing on a pile of wood each afternoon, telling the gathered people what God told him. His carpenters have heard the sermon thousands of times. As the crowd laughs at Noah, at times he becomes discouraged. I can imagine him saying to God, “Lord, if you just send a sign, they will believe you. Maybe just a few drops of rain or a clap of thunder to get their attention?” But the Lord does not send any signs now.
Can you imagine the excitement when the ark is finished and God says, “Noah, next week you will go into the ark”? I can see Noah and his three sons doing the last inspection of the ark and bringing in food for the animals.
Then Noah announces to everyone, “Be here early in the morning to enter the ark!” As the crowd gathers, something very strange happens. Animals began to come from the forest, two by two and seven by seven. I can imagine three lanes of animals going into the ark—one lane for the big animals—the elephants, lions, cows. A second lane for the smaller animals—cats, squirrels, rabbits. Noah pats some dirt to make a little ramp up to the big log ramp for the really small and slow creatures—the inchworms, caterpillars, and snails.
The step of faith
The people begin to wonder if Noah is right. But the wise men say, “Don’t worry. Remember how Noah said he was going to take a nap every afternoon after his sermon? He was really down in the woods training the animals. There will not be a flood. Water will not fall from heaven. We all know that water is heavier than air and cannot fall from heaven.”
After the animals are in the ark, Noah stands at the top of the ramp, inviting the people to come in. But no one comes. He calls each carpenter by name, saying, “You promised you would come in and be saved!” A group of carpenters off to one side discuss their plans: “We don’t have to go in now and embarrass ourselves. Noah cannot close that door. It took twelve of us just to lift it onto its hinges. We can wait until everyone leaves and then go in with him and close the door. We don’t have to risk being ridiculed if it does not rain.”
After his last plea, Noah slowly enters the ark. Suddenly, the door closes! There are no visible hands closing it. Noah’s carpenters knew Noah did not close that door! Imagine them pacing back and forth that night, watching the sky. In the morning, the sun comes up and things do not seem so bad. They have several sleepless nights, but, by the fourth or fifth day, the carpenters join the crowds that taunt Noah and his family.
But on the seventh day, the sky turns black and rain begins to fall. Noah’s carpenters are first to reach the ark. They pound on the door, demanding, “We built the ark, we have the right to be saved in it!” But Noah can do nothing. They could have simply walked into the ark a week earlier, but now they are lost. For years they had worked to build the ark, but they were not saved in it.
We are all carpenters building God’s “ark of safety” for the last days—His Church. Luke says, “Remember Lot’s wife.” We also need to “remember Noah’s carpenters.” God chose us to work, not just for our technical skills, but because we promised to be “in” the ark. How sad to spend our whole life building and then not taking the simple step of faith to walk in and be saved. My prayer is that none of us is left outside.