I have an ever-lengthening bucket list, but I honestly can’t say that building a giant box is a priority item. It was definitely on Noah’s to-do list, though. In fact, the project was a big part of his life for at least a century. Forget for a second that you know his story and try to imagine what it was like to be in his position.
You spend a good portion of most days assembling materials to construct an ark, and after a while, that big box really starts coming together in your backyard. You can imagine some people are going to have questions about that. It’s really not a common hobby. What do you tell them? If in your mind you are answering, “The truth,” that’s wonderful! But understand that telling the truth, however right it is, never guarantees immediate positive consequences.
What response would you expect if you told people that God spoke to you and told you He was going to drown the world? How might you expect them to react if you said that living in this enormous box they saw before them was the only way to survive this worldwide catastrophe? Truthfully, out of context, how does that sound to you? I’d imagine that you could expect to receive, at the very least, a few hearty, mocking laughs. How would you feel, standing face-to-face with people who clearly thought you were anything from silly to insane? How would you feel if you had to have conversations like this for a whole year? What about 100? Would you have the fortitude to keep facing those judgmental, contemptuous faces everyday and keep speaking the truth?
Welcome to the life of a servant of God.
Peter told servants of God in his day that things would be no different for them.
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3–4 NAS95)
In every age, there will be many who preach the philosophy that a full life is led by lust. Of course, they would rarely use such negatively connoted wording, but desire fulfillment is the way of the world. Consequently, every age also becomes a setting for the most ancient conflict: the will of man versus the will of God. As man entrenches himself deeper and deeper in a life centered around the gratification of his own flesh, he tests God. In his utter disregard for the Creator, man’s disobedience challenges a God who is perfectly just. And make no mistake: in every age, God will act. He promises punishment as the reward to those who continue to willfully disobey. But in terms of an ultimate judgment, worldly detractors will contest, there just seems to be one problem: nothing has happened. Yet.
Peter says that these people, while mocking and criticizing the idea of God’s return in righteous judgment, overlook something crucial.
“For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.” (2 Peter 3:5–6 NAS95)
God’s word is sure. Exhibit A? The flood. God said it would happen, and it did. As powerful as God’s word was to create life, His word proved equally powerful and reliable enough to extinguish it. All of it. Well, almost all of it. One family did survive. Remember that seemingly silly servant who said God was going to destroy the world and only save those on the ark? I imagine all those mockers no longer thought Noah seemed so crazy. After all, it’s hard to make fun of someone’s incredible beliefs while choking on rushing flood waters.
The truth is, the same thing is going to happen all over again, just not with water.
“But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7 NAS95)
Paul likewise mentions that the majority of the world considers everything about Christianity to be utter foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:21–25). He would know. After speaking to an assembly of contemporary inquiring minds about the nature of the one true God, Paul preached a message of repentance. His grounds for beckoning the Athenians to turn from their lusts were Jesus’ resurrection and God’s promise that His Son would return to judge the world. Take one guess as to how some in that group responded.
“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’ So Paul went out of their midst.” (Acts 17:32–33 NAS95)
Well, at least some people treated Paul as well as any other person who had ever spoken in the Areopagus about something new and fantastic. Others, however, dismissed Paul’s message by rudely belittling him with mocking insults. Why would God have His servants endure this kind of public mistreatment repeatedly? The answer lies in the response of the third group present that day.
“But some men joined him and believed.” (Acts 17:34 NAS95)
God calls His servants to be seen as fools before the world because the “some”—out of one gathering, in one city, in one very small country—matter. God calls His servants to speak the truth, in all its purported silliness, because some will believe and be willing to do whatever peculiar thing God promises will save them from destruction. God calls His servants to endure the mocking because in every age, there will be those few who will listen. And yes, sometimes “few” means “eight” (1 Peter 3:20). And yes, even that “some” is worth it to God.
If you truly want to participate in the Lord’s work, you should get used to the idea that you, like so many servants before you, will look like a fool to the world. Still, is it really too much to ask that servants of God spend a lifetime seeming silly to the masses if it means saving souls through the message of the cross? After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for you?
BJ Young (2019-03-03)