According to different sources I've read on the Internet recently, it took Noah between 20 and 75 years to build the Ark. Of course, the Bible doesn't give a specific time-duration, and the '120 years' mentioned in Genesis 6:3, it is said, refers to the commencement of the lead-up to the flood; it doesn't refer to the day God told Noah to start building. And, as with many things we read in the Bible, it is easy to forget the day to day view of it, and think only of the broad brush view. God said to Noah that the people of the earth were really bad and He was going to destroy everyone except Noah and his family, and Noah was to build an Ark. So, being a righteous man, Noah did as God said and built an Ark....and so the story goes; the flood came, and the Ark bobbed around for forty days before the rain stopped. It may even seem that all the while they were playing happy families with the best line-up of pets in history! Then we might even find ourselves thinking; "Wasn't Noah amazing - I wish I had that kind of faith and those abilities." But we forget, Noah wasn't a ship-builder by trade, and Noah didn't build this thing over the period of a weekend!
This was a monstrous undertaking. The movie "Evan Almighty" depicts a Noah-like character building an 'ark' in his suburban neighbourhood, and given the way the movie flows, it's subtly suggested the process of building this 'ark' took only a few weeks. Yeah, even with it's much smaller size, maybe if you had some behind the scenes help!
Genesis 6:22 says; "Noah did everything as God commanded him." But whether it be 20 or 75, this took years....and years! It's easy to even think, well - okay, it took years, but he did it, and with ease because God told him to, and God was with him, and Noah was some kind of superman. Hmmm, I don't know about that! Of course, God was with him - we know that because the Bible says so - Genesis 6:8; "But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord." Genesis 6:13a; "So God said to Noah..." Usually when God is speaking to anyone, including you, He is with you. But the Bible says nothing about this being an easy task for Noah. I imagine it was actually pretty difficult!
For many years I was a penpaller, writing to people from all over the world, sharing my day to day life - the condensed version of it at least. I still have a few people I write to. A few months ago one of my son's got married, and with these few remaining penpals I shared photos of this momentous day (yeah, I'm still in the 'my son is the first in the world to ever get married' mindset!), and one response was amazement that I now have a married child. "Penpal" remembered only the moments of my son's life that I had shared; as a toddler, as a teen, school days, new job, etc. Anyone on the outside looking in would feel the same. Fleeting glances and exclamations of 'where did the time go?' But for me, I lived every day (every hour!!) of my children's lives. I experienced the tears and laughter, the new teeth, losing teeth, teeth being knocked out on scooter handlebars, or chipped on railings that were crashed into. I patched up the scraped knees, sat in hospital waiting rooms while they were stitched up, sat beside beds when they were ill, endured the birthday parties at home. I've lived the good, the bad, and the ugly- every day of my 25 years (so far) as a mum, and there was a nice balance of all of those things, as any parent would know.
Noah experienced every day it took to build the Ark. We experience only the 'highlights' and only a handful at that!
Let's say, for arguments sake, it took fifty years for Noah to build the Ark. When I was 9 or 10 I used to try and imagine myself as a lady of 50, and that seemed not only really, really old, but such a long time away too - way, way off into a future I couldn't even imagine. Now though, it doesn't sound much when you say it fast! Okay, so imagine it took Noah 50 years - don't just see the 5-0. Put it in perspective...God told Noah, in a time when rain had never fallen on the earth EVER before and people had no idea what a flood even was, to build a boat, the task of which was going to keep him busy, and take every day of those fifty years to complete. That's 18,250 days....of mocking, ridicule, taunting, aching shoulders and hammered thumbs...every day for 18,250 days. Maybe Noah even faced saboteurs, stolen or hidden property, misplaced tool, unco-operative sons, days of illness, or times of aftermath from Mrs. Noah's cabbage stew, which tasted a little funky when he ate it but he was famished after a hard day of Ark-building so he ate it anyway...these are the thing we don't know about, and very rarely cast a thought to.
I think there were also days when he questioned. Or days when he didn't work quite as hard as he had the day before. Or days when he was tired or cranky. I think there were days when he woke up and felt like a right idiot building a boat for a flood that was coming when the sky was clear and the day was sunny! I think he especially felt like this on days when the crowd had gathered and was pointing and staring and shouting those derisive comments. God provided everything he needed, including the measurements and the instructions, but we don't know how much other 'heavenly assistance' he had, or what that might have been. Though I doubt God built a wall around the construction site to shield Noah from the hurtful remarks hurled at him.
Nor do I believe this undertaking sped by in the blink of an eye. How did Noah's patience hold up? Were there days when he woke up, discouraged that he was doing the same 'ole thing again for the 1,017th time? Were there days when he just wanted to throw in the hammer and walk away, back to the 'old days' when life... - - okay it wasn't quite as good, but it sure made more sense? How many times whilst hauling himself upward on the swinging plank-seat to reach those beams at the very top did he have to tell himself, out loud, that even though this seemed a very odd thing to be building, God knows what He's doing. How many times did he says to himself; "I don't get why this is taking so long, but God, Your timing is not my timing."
I wonder how many of us would hold up, if we were in Noah's position? I wonder how many of us would have even said yes to God?? Being told by God to not only do the impossible, but do something that is going to convince every single person you know that you are crazy, AND take years to accomplish! How many of us would step out in faith, armed with bucket loads of patience and get on with it? How many of us even have one bucket load of patience? Yeah, I struggle there!!!
Quite often we just don't understand why or how God arrives at His timing or purposes. But are we meant to know? Why should we know? We're not God! And anyway, armed with all that information, but minus the 'all-knowing-God-ness' of our Father in heaven, how many of us, including Noah, would respond with something like; "Well, I don't think that's a very good idea!"
Can you imagine Noah...
"A boat? Out here?"
"A flood - what's a flood?"
"It's gonna take me how long?"
"Oh, but God, I don't think that's a very good idea!"
So, my petition to you, Dearest Reader, is summed up in a quote my mother loves and has written in the front of her Bible (I have it in mine too, now), which goes like this: "Lord, I do not understand Thee, but I trust Thee." Even when it makes no sense at all, if God is asking let us do. No matter how long it takes, or how much patience we have to muster. And while we're doing, let us trust that God knows what He's doing, and why He is asking for our obedience in this task He has chosen us for, and why it will take the time it is going to take to accomplish it.
Lord, so often we don't understand Your ways, or why You ask of us the things You do. We don't understand why our prayers aren't answered as quickly as we would like, or why we aren't healed the way we want, or at all. But we are strengthened by faith in You. We know that Your Word and Your promises are truth, and in them we can place our faith and be made strong in You. And we can endure anything through faith in You. We can also rest in knowing You are in control and with us always, through everything, and Your timing and purposes are perfect. Thank You, Lord, for that perfection, and for the comfort we draw from You. In Jesus' Name, amen.