So the rain finally ceased. The waters slowly receded. Noah waited.
The total time on the ark for Noah and his family came to 1 year and 10 days.
The configuration of the ark was such that Noah had no clear view of things – what was out there or where he was going. There was only the steady rocking and bobbing of the ark upon the surface of the deep beneath a gray sky. Would the sun ever shine again? Would the boat ever stop moving? Would God ever open the door He had shut?
On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the bottom of the ark scraped the mountain ranges of Ararat, and somewhere in that mountain range, perhaps on some plateau, it came to rest. Noah waited.
Perhaps you remember. In a touching scene Noah sends forth his feathered friends to get some idea of what’s going on out there. First the raven – a scavenger bird – flying back and forth – resting on the slimy high spots and feeding on rotting remains. It does not return to the ark. The dove is more finicky about what it eats and where it sets it dainty little foot. It returns to Noah in the ark. Seven more days pass and Noah sends forth the dove again. The hours tick by – and in the evening – the dove flutters back through the window – with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak – life – something growing – the promise of new life. How Noah must have danced all over that ark, waving that olive leaf!
It would have been easy for Noah to go charging out of the ark on his own, to spring forth from that cramped, smelly boat which by now must have seemed a prison. But Noah trusts that God shall remember him.
It is a mark of faith to trust that God will come to us – when we feel locked in and cannot see where life is taking us – waiting for wars to end, for prodigal children to come home, for pandemics to end, for life to resume.
Noah trusts that God will come. And God does. And Noah builds an altar. He gives thanks to God beneath the rainbow of God’s promises. And where does the rainbow appear? Always in the clouds – in the darkest places of our lives – preaching to us that we still have a Father who loves us – that we are not mere gamblers in some game of chance . We are still a people who live by the mercies of God. We are a people who know where we have come from and where we are going, and in whose hand we are held, the hand of Him who bore in our stead the just judgments of God not on Mount Ararat but on Mount Calvary. He who sits upon the rainbow circled throne in the book of the Revelation, still hears our cries for help and our hymns of thanks amid every storm: “All around us lightning flashes, give us hearts set free from fright, down upon the world’s confusion, cast Thine everlasting light.”