Before The Rain

rain scene in the cityIn a blog post written by Billy March in December 2007, he starts off his post with a question retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir (played by Robert Redford in the movie, Spy Game) asks his secretary, Gladys (played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Muir asks Gladys, When did Noah build the Ark? March continues with the answer Muir gives and his explanation of it:

‘Before the rain . . . before the rain.’ I first heard this aphorism in one of my favorite Robert Redford movies, ‘Spy Game.’ He quoted it to his secretary near the beginning of the film as he began to make preparations for some of the foreseen obstactles and conflicts that he was about to face. Most certainly, there is much more to the story of Noah and the Flood in Genesis [see Genesis 5:32-10:1] than merely extracting this principle, but still, it is a simple, witty way of communicating the great need to be ready for anything in the Christian life.” (Quote source here.)

“. . . the great need to be ready for anything in the Christian life” . . . . But are we really ready?

I read a devotion this morning in My Daily Pursuit: Devotions for Every Day (2013), by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), compiled and edited by James L. Snyder, that speaks to this very issue of why we are so often not really ready for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that come our way. Here is what Tozer had to say:

It is my prayer that the evangelical church will discover that salvation is not a light bulb only, not an insurance policy against hell, but a gateway into God and into His heart.

The cults like to play this little religious game. They like to offer a form of security similar to buying an insurance policy. Unfortunately, what they offer is far less than what the Scripture offers us.

My concern is that the evangelical church has come perilously close to this sort of attitude. For some reason, the whole purpose of conversion has degenerated to this level. It is not so much what a person has been saved from, although thank God for that, but what he has been saved to.

The heaven that has been offered lately is a heaven most people want to go to. It is a place where they will have everything right; a split-level home, two cars, a fountain and swimming pool and golden streets to top it off.

That heaven does not appeal to me at all . . . heaven will be heaven because the Trinity will fill our hearts with joy without end. Here is what we must get into our heads and hearts: Jesus Christ is a full and complete manifestation of the Trinity. (Devotion for August 3rd, p. 228).

Nowadays, the heaven that Tozer described is often what we expect to get in the “here and now” before we ever actually get to heaven. It is as if this “insurance policy” mentality has given us the right to everything we want and expect now, in this life, and not just waiting for it to come around in eternity. And we too often tend to stop at the point of salvation and not move on in Jesus Christ (as in the cost of discipleship) and the life He would have us to live through Him, which in reality has nothing to do with the modern image presented to us of “successful Christian living” that often includes that split-level house with all the trimmings and personal accolades to go with it. That may or may not end up being a part of our life in the “here and now,” but we are totally missing the point if we expect it or think that that is the basis of our Christian life and what “success” as a Christian should look like. Even nonbelievers can and do acquire much if not more of what we think is our “right” as a Christian to receive. Believing in Jesus Christ is not based on our material world and what’s in it for us. And our lives often don’t look any different from those around us who don’t claim to believe in Jesus Christ.

“As it was in the days of Noah . . .” (see Matthew 24:37). Today we live just like people lived back then, living in the “here and now” and not giving much thought to anything else. In answer to the question, What was it like in the days of Noah? GotQuestions?org answers with following statement:

The biblical account of Noah begins in Genesis 6. Approximately 1,600 years had passed since the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26–27). As the earth’s population exploded in number, it also exploded with evil. Long forgotten was the righteous sacrifice of Abel (Genesis 4:4) as “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Verses 11 and 12 say, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” However, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (verse 8).

When Jesus described the events that will surround His second coming, He said, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26–27). Jesus was pointing out that, although the people of Noah’s day were totally depraved, they were not the least bit concerned about it. They were carrying on the events of their lives without a single thought of the judgment of God. Noah is described as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), meaning he had spent years warning his friends and neighbors what the Holy God was about to do. No one listened.

The depravity and ungodly lifestyles of the entire world at that time were enough to cause the Lord to “regret that He had made man” (Genesis 6:6). Many scholars believe that part of the need to destroy every human being except Noah and his family was the sin mentioned in Genesis 6:1–4, when “the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.” As evil reproduced and overtook the world, the most merciful act God could perform was to start over.

It is interesting that God allowed Noah nearly one hundred years to complete the building of the ark. Through all that time, God patiently waited (1 Peter 3:20). Scripture seems to imply that Noah preached to the people of that time about what was coming (Hebrews 11:7). They did not believe Noah and were content with their wickedness and idolatry. Their hearts were hard and their ears dull. No one repented, and no one cared to seek God.

Jesus said that the world will be much the same before He returns to set up His earthly kingdom (Matthew 25:31–33). He warned us to “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” Second Timothy 3:1–4 gives us a clear picture of the state of the world before Jesus comes and most likely also describes the world in the days of Noah. That verse says, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” It is becoming increasingly obvious that, to understand what the world was like in the days of Noah, we only need to watch the evening news. (Quote source here.)

Trust and ObeyNoah spent over 100 years building the ark and everyone around him thought he was crazy. However, Hebrews 11:7 states, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” Faith doesn’t look to others but only to God. We too often are conformed by the “others” around us and what they think of us then we are by God (and that includes churchgoers, too). Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In our churches today we don’t hear much about having a “holy fear” of God. We hear a lot about grace and love, and we sing our worship songs, but the fear of God has lost its meaning in our daily lives (if we even understood what it is), and the way we live throughout the week often indicates this problem. In answer to the question, What does it mean to have the fear of God? states:

For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death, which is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. The believer’s fear is reverence of God. Hebrews 12:28-29 is a good description of this: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ’God is a consuming fire.’” This reverence and awe is exactly what the fear of God means for Christians. This is the motivating factor for us to surrender to the Creator of the Universe.

Proverbs 1:7 declares, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Until we understand who God is and develop a reverential fear of Him, we cannot have true wisdom. True wisdom comes only from understanding who God is and that He is holy, just, and righteous. Deuteronomy 10:12, 20-21 records, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” The fear of God is the basis for our walking in His ways, serving Him, and, yes, loving Him.

Some redefine the fear of God for believers to “respecting” Him. While respect is definitely included in the concept of fearing God, there is more to it than that. A biblical fear of God, for the believer, includes understanding how much God hates sin and fearing His judgment on sin—even in the life of a believer. Hebrews 12:5-11 describes God’s discipline of the believer. While it is done in love (Hebrews 12:6), it is still a fearful thing. As children, the fear of discipline from our parents no doubt prevented some evil actions. The same should be true in our relationship with God. We should fear His discipline, and therefore seek to live our lives in such a way that pleases Him.

Believers are not to be scared of God. We have no reason to be scared of Him. We have His promise that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). We have His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Fearing God means having such a reverence for Him that it has a great impact on the way we live our lives. The fear of God is respecting Him, obeying Him, submitting to His discipline, and worshipping Him in awe. (Quote source here.)

Also, Proverbs 9:10 states, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” So how is the fear of God the beginning of wisdom? states: 

The link between the fear of God and wisdom means we cannot possess wisdom if we recreate God in our own image. Too many people want to “tame” God into a non-threatening nobody. But, if we redefine the Lord as a god that makes us feel comfortable, a permissive “buddy” who exists simply to bless us and give us what we want, we will not fear Him in the way He deserves to be feared. The Lord God Almighty is far greater than that, and the fear of the Lord begins when we see Him in His majesty and power (Revelation 4:11; Job 42:1–2) The Lord shows Job (and us) a glimpse of His power in Job 38—41 when He describes His absolute sovereignty over everything. 

When the reality of God’s true nature has caused us to fall down in worship, we are then in the right position to gain wisdom. Wisdom is merely seeing life from God’s perspective and responding accordingly. Wisdom is a priority, and we are told to seek it above all else (Proverbs 3:13; 16:16). Proverbs is known as the wisdom book, and the entire second chapter gives a detailed explanation of the value of gaining wisdom. (Quote source here.)

When God told Noah to build the ark, Noah didn’t question God. He built the ark. And he didn’t cave in to the pressure to conform to the rest of the crowd nor did he pay attention to the ridicule and mocking he received from them, either. Too often we question what we don’t understand, and when it comes to God and what He would have us to do, that questioning can get us into trouble. God wants our obedience, not our questions. If we give Him our obedience, He does the rest in His way and for His purposes . . . .

It saved Noah’s life and the life of his family . . .

And it will save us, too . . . .

YouTube Video: “He Reigns” by The Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here