Today's reading: Genesis 7; Matthew 7.
Some years ago I read a book about the eruption of Krakatoa in the south Indian Sea near Sumatra in August, 1883. The unprecedented 200 megaton explosion burst the eardrums of sailors 40 miles away. The pressure wave rounded the world three times. What followed: pyroclastic flows, earthquakes, and tsunamis which would claim over 36,000 lives. The volcano would release 20 million tons of sulfur into the atmosphere and affect global climate over the next few years.
It was a gripping book to read. No, actually, it was frightening. To think that just one volcano 150 years ago in the south Indian sea could so impact the world, even affecting the tides in the English channel thousands of miles away.
Today's Bible reading is about the great worldwide flood of Noah's day (OT reading) and the certainty of future judgment (NT reading). Sometimes we think about Noah and the flood in a kind of fairy-tale way, with images of a cute little boat and happy animals peering out. On the contrary, this was a global cataclysm and a divine judgment on early humankind.
Jesus believed the story about Noah, the ark, and the great flood of global judgment. He said that it pointed ahead to his second coming: "For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:38-39 ESV)
The Apostle Peter likewise wrote, "...when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water." (1 Peter 3:20 ESV) He continued to say that the flood waters foreshadow Christian baptism, and the ark is a symbol of being safe in Christ from the future judgment (3:21).
Is it all a myth? Peter again writes, "...knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.' For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:3-9 ESV)
People today, just like people in Peter's day, tend to think that the mere passage of time makes events mythical, improbable, or uncertain. The creation and the flood may seem long ago, and Christ's promise of return may seem like a fairy tale, yet God's judgments only await his perfect timing. God is eternal, and he is patient.
In Matthew 7. The last section of the Sermon on the Mount likewise contains truths about future judgment, also using the image of flooding ... "And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." (7:26-27)
His promise. Also in Matt 7 is a great passage to memorize, verses 7-11. Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (7:7) The verbs in verse 7 are present imperatives, which indicate the Lord's desire that we freely and continually be asking for what we need.
My take-aways: just because something seems to be in the dim past or the faraway future, it doesn't mean that it is any less real. God's word will come to pass. If I believe that Christ bore our sins on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day, then I can believe any other miraculous thing that he says has happened or will happen. The coming judgment is real, and though the Lord seems to delay, I need to remember that he has not become soft on sin nor will he tolerate any evil to enter the new heavens and new earth. Also, since I am now a child of God I can freely ask, and should keep asking, for whatever I need to walk with the Lord.
Photo above of Krakatau eruption last year, from Australian news sbs.com.au