I’m not sure if this is a sign, but 2016 may be a challenging year. Having nearly completed this article, my computer shut down and I lost what I had written—completely. After several unsuccessful attempts at recovery, here I go again. Providentially, my “trial” fit the theme.
In the days preceding this first day of the year, the media here in South Africa has been portending a tough 2016. The crashing of the Rand and the related economic stagnation, coupled with high unemployment, does not bode well for any robust economic expectations. Our government seems to be in the midst of a vacuum of leadership and one wonders if we will see the needed changes in the year ahead. Our crime statistics are anything but encouraging, and the matric results, which are soon to be published, are not very hope-inspiring. And though there are some reasons for encouragement, it seems that our land is filled with lukewarm churches that are as useless as the one in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14–17). This week the advertised “Night of Bliss with Pastor Chris” reveals that the church is in trouble.
So, as we welcome the new year, it is probably safe to say that, in many ways, 2016 may be deluged with a flood of further bad news. Happy New Year! But really, I mean it.
As Christians, those who place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, we have every reason to be positive about the future. I was reminded of this in my Bible reading this morning.
As you read the opening chapters of Genesis, you are staggered by how quickly the downgrade occurs, from the perfectly glorious creation to the perilously ghastly de-creation because of man’s sin met by God’s wrath. The worldwide catastrophic flood, by which God destroys man, animals and vegetation, resulted in a whole new world. From creation to de-creation in a matter of a few months! Though the Bible opens with great hope, by chapter 6 there is a need for comfort because of the corrupt state of the world. Enter a man, an ark, a family—and hope.
When Lamech became father to a son, he perceived that the Lord had brought a child into the world by which He would provide reassurance that all was not lost. For this reason Lamech gave him the name Noah for “this one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD cursed” (Genesis 5:29).
Noah was surrounded by a culture that was so corrupt that God committed to start all over again. Hence the worldwide flood (Genesis 6:5–7)—and grace.
God declared, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them.” That, of course, is what we call really bad news. By comparison, the prospects of 2016 look pretty good. But this was not the end of the story, for c. 8 informs us that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” And Noah knew it. Noah believed it. And for this reason, by faith, he “prepared an ark for the saving of his household” (Hebrews 11:7). The rains subsequently came down and the floods came up as God’s wrath was unleashed on a godless world. All was destroyed, except for Noah and his family. His believing family. We are familiar with this part of the story, but perhaps are not as familiar with a parallel story that also displays the faith of Noah. That parallel plot surrounds the question of Noah’s family. The existence of Noah’s family is evidence that Noah’s faith kept hope afloat. But first, some math.
According to Genesis 7:6, Noah was six hundred years old when the rains fell and the flood came up. According to Genesis 6:3, the Lord had revealed (most probably to Noah) that the flood would come in 120 years. That means that Noah was 480 years old when he received this warning. But note that Noah started his family when he was five hundred years old (Genesis 5:32). Now, think with me.
Comparing these dates, that means that twenty years after receiving the sure Word of God that worldwide destruction was coming, Noah (and, of course, Mrs Noah) decided to start and raise a family. Knowing that God would judge the world, Noah believed that God would also save his family. Not in spite of the certainty that God would judge, but because of the certainty that this same God would save, they started a family. By faith, they saw beyond the flood to a new world. They were very aware of the de-creation that would take place, but they also believed God concerning His re-creation. And therefore they were not fearful of procreation.
My point is not to encourage more fertility in our church (though the more the merrier); rather, my point is that, as Christians, we have every reason to have hope that floats in spite of dire economic outlooks, and in spite of corrupt and incompetent government leaders, and in spite of the dangers of a largely lawless society. Because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have every reason to keep hope afloat as we ride safely in the ark of the gospel, by which Jesus Christ has forever sealed us safe from the wrath of God.
Just as Noah believed that God would do something so great that he was willing to “risk”bringing children into the world, so we, the church of Jesus Christ, must continue to marry and be given in marriage, and raise families, and do our jobs with integrity, and go to class, and prepare for the future, and engage with our culture, and plant churches, and preach the gospel, and live for the Lord, knowing that God is at work. One day, we will see the fulfilment of the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21) in which righteousness will dwell—and flourishes. We are not to ignore the flood waters, but neither are we to be paralysed by them. Rather, we are to be fruitful and to increase the workforce to help us to announce that there is salvation in the ark of Jesus Christ.
Will 2016 be a year of floods and turmoil? Perhaps. But, because of the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope will remain afloat. So, in light of this, happy New Year, indeed.