We'd been planning this event for quite a few months, ever since it had been suggested that we travel to the Netherlands to see a scale model of Noah's ark, which was opened in 2012. The Bible Blast group that meets every other Friday evening had been plodding through the book of Genesis, and has done some good thinking about the account of Noah and the global flood that has left traces in the geological record and the common genetic pool of the single human race. So why not go on Pentecost weekend to see a 1:1 model of what the ark may have looked like?
It was agreed . . . and then people asked if some of the parents could come along. Sure! In the end we numbered about 70 participants.
We had a great evening of fellowship Sunday evening at the youth hostel east of Dordrecht, and excellent discussions about the biblical account Monday morning. First, the children aged 12 and under put together a quickly paced dramatization of the flood story, from the calling of Noah through his sacrifice of an animal upon exiting the ark over a year later. Then the Bible Blast teens answered 28 detailed questions they'd researched a few days before while the adults listened (they'd also had the chance to find the answers during the four-hour car ride to Holland Sunday afternoon). To wrap things up, the adults reported on small group discussions they'd had around the question, "What should we do as parents and young people to imitate Noah's faith and obedience in times that may be very similar to Noah's? How can we encourage one another in this?"
The answers to those questions are worth noting:
- Noah's day was similar to our own--corruption, violence, and evil hearts, as illustrated in pervasive moral decay, violent video games, the lack of integrity in politics and business, and the dishonesty of teachers who help their students cheat to pass exams.
- Noah was righteous himself before he could be a "preacher of righteousness" to his world (2 Peter 2:5). Parents must be the same.
- Noah's project, supported by his small family, had high visibility, and his contemporaries must have said he was crazy. Yet the steadiness of his sons under this pressure must have been largely a reflection of Noah's walking with God.
- God gave Noah promises as he built. Only afterwards could he see God's faithfulness in the rearview mirror. He wrote down those things as a heritage for his children and for us. Christian parents can do the same for their children.
- In many ways the world is not a safe place for our children. They are attacked with godlessness everywhere--on the way to school, among comrades, by some teachers, through the media, etc. Home therefore needs to be a safe place where those kinds of influences are pushed out.
- Proverbs 22:6 needs to encourage parents as they engage in a long-term project of training their children in godly living.
- Parents need a reality check when they consider the temper of our own times. So many are confused, lack courage, and come from cultures that give divergent patterns for training children. Parents are tired after a long week of work. Many are uninformed and uprooted from the sound advice of grandparents and the extended family. Parenting can't simply rely on "common sense", but needs divine revelation as its foundation. It starts with prayer and the right attitudes.
- Christian parents must help children and youth understand that if they take a stand for Christ and the authority of Scripture, they will be in the minority. We have a spiritual enemy, including Satan himself and even governmental and educational institutions. We must be willing to go against the flow as a counter-cultural people, just as Noah and his family did for up to 120 years until the flood came.
- To stand firmly families need to choose a sound church, set standards for family devotions (Scripture reading, prayer, Bible text memorization, singing) and start young. How many hours do we spend each week in the Word of God to know it better?
- Imagine the very first conversation Noah would have had with his sons about the ark project after God had spoken to him about it--he must have exercized strong leadership and vision. We need that, too.
- Our children monitor our spiritual growth and consistency. We are watched even when we think we aren't, and what we say and do matters in the little thngs as much as with the big projects we think will make a big splash.
- The Bible does not flinch to mention Noah's sin of drunkenness. But despite his failure he is called a man of faith (Hebrews 11:7).
- We need to be ready to admit openly when we are struggling or experiencing failure so we can get the help we need.
- Despite the pressures of a godless culture, Noah and his wife were nonetheless granted the joy of finding believing wives for each of their sons. How encouraging for believing parents today when this search seems so impossible!
- We have the advantage of the availability of the whole Bible, whereas Noah had so much less revelation of God's purposes. Our own day may not yet be as desperately evil as Noah's was. This gives us hope--if Noah could be faithful, so can we! Indeed, God expects more of us than He did of him.
- Noah must have used the everyday situations of life as a chance to teach his grown sons about God's ways. We must do the same (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). It's important to have ministry goals as a family. That can be very simple things like cleaning the church together or being the welcoming committee on Sunday mornings before the worship service.
- Noah knew God's character and did all God told him to do because he trusted God's wisdom. If we want our children to trust God that way, we must teach them to trust us completely as we trust God completely.
We left grateful for the opportunity to have been together, and for the great fellowship and mutual encouragement. Thanks, Noah, for what you've told us thousands of years later . . . you've left us a heritage as we hope to do for those who follow us!