Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ash Wednesday: The Flood: Forty Days and Forty Nights (Gen. 7-9)

Opening Prayer: Gracious God, we ask that you would be gracious unto us, show your kindness and favor now by empowering your word. Teach us that we might be your faithful servants. Through Jesus Christ has suffered for us and now lives and reigns…

Celebrating Lent is new to many of us, and therefore it’s fitting that we consider carefully what Lent is or ought to be. Lent is the forty days leading up to Resurrection Sunday. In Lent the Church reaffirms its commitment to follow Jesus to the cross and grave. The first time the theme of forty appears in Scripture is in the story of the Flood.

Forty Days and Forty Nights: The Flood
One of the most wonderful phrases in the Bible is found in the statement that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The word for “grace” means favor, and it is found throughout the Old Testament to indicate not only averting judgment or disaster but often includes promotion and blessing as well (Gen. 33:8, 39:4, Ex. 11:3, 33:11-23, Est. 2:15ff, Zech. 12:10). Not only is Noah being saved from destruction, the fact that God is making covenant with him (6:18, 9:9-17) also means that God is granting Noah fellowship with him. Yahweh is making Noah a new Adam, giving him authority over the animals (6:19-20, 7:2-3, 9:1-2, etc.). But God is saving Noah through a tremendous trial. Not only is Noah called upon to build the Ark and prepare for the flood, but the flood comes and the rain continues for forty days and nights (7:4, 12, 17). All said Noah is in the Ark for a little over one year (7:11, 8:14). But at the heart of that is a forty day storm during which he is remaking the world. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it was by faith that Noah feared and obeyed God, condemned the wicked, and became an heir of the righteousness by faith (Heb. 11:7). This is what Yahweh had said to Noah, declaring that he had seen him to be righteous (Gen. 7:1). Peter says that Noah and his family were saved through the water and says that baptism is the antitype which now saves us (1 Pet. 3:20-21).

Conclusion and Applications
What is striking is that Peter says that the water saved Noah rather than the ark. The storm was Noah’s salvation. Of course it was not salvation for countless others, but because Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and by faith heeded the word of the Lord, he was seen as righteous and saved by a storm.

Lent is not a season where we pretend to be in a storm. It is not a simulation for real life. Rather, Lent is an annual reminder that life is a storm. But Lent is a call to remember where you are in the storm. You have found grace in the eyes of the Lord; you are in the Ark. Lent is a call to faith in the God of the storms.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty and most merciful God, we are ever before your eyes. We are ever before your face, and you know our lives far better than we do. Teach us to trust you in the wilderness, and save us through the storms that you bring. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

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