For the week of October 16, 2004 / 1 Heshvan 5765
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 6:9 - 11:32;
Bemidbar / Numbers 28:9-15
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month - on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights (Bereshit / Genesis 7:11,12).
The story of the Great Flood is a very important event for scientists who believe the Bible. For them, the flood explains many of the things that other scientists claim could only have happened over long periods of time. While geologists see evidence in the earth of great dramatic changes, observation cannot determine how long it took for these changes to take place.
The nature of these changes leaves us with two possibilities. Either they happened over a long period of time, or they were caused by a catastrophe or a series of catastrophes. If we accept the validity of the Scriptures, it is very likely that instead of a long slow process of change over millions of years, it was the catastrophic flood that put the earth in the state in which we find it today.
It is important to note that unlike the way this story is told in numerous children's picture books, what happened was not simply a major downpour for 40 days and nights, but as we read at the start, "all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened." This suggests an unleashing of water far greater than a very bad rain storm.
Mount St. Helens has been in the news lately after many years. In 1980 half the mountain blew up due to a volcanic eruption. This provided scientists with a modern, first-hand look at the effects of a catastrophe, demonstrating that one catastrophe can do in a few minutes what would normally happen over a very long period of time.
Recently we have also seen the catastrophic effects of an unusual number of hurricanes. Towns and villages in some of the most beautiful places on earth were devastated. Thousands of people have died, houses and possessions destroyed. Losses are in the billions of dollars.
Those of us not directly affected may have difficulty imagining what it would be like to have our lives either destroyed or radically changed in a moment or within a few hours.
A couple of months ago the house of some friends of ours was burnt to the ground. They barely got out with their lives.. They lost just about everything.
When we got the tail end of Hurricane Francis a few weeks ago, our city experienced double the record of rain. We didn't expect that we would be facing anything like what others had in the Caribbean or Florida. Most of us didn't. But about 44 homes in one neighborhood, due to a malfunctioning sewer pump, had their basements flooded - some knee deep with raw sewage. Every single thing the sewage touched had to be disposed of. It will take a long time, if ever, for that neighborhood to recover from this catastrophe.
Anyone who has any understanding of life knows that catastrophes can come upon us at any time. Yet it seems that most people live much like the people of Noah's day, thinking that no serious danger would ever befall them.
Catastrophes cause us to see how fragile and vulnerable we really are. Through them we learn that nothing in this life is indestructible or predictable. How many of us find our security for tomorrow based on the things we possess today - most of which carry no guaranty of being there for us tomorrow.
The story of Noah not only reminds us that the world as we know it can be transformed in an instant, but that our only true and lasting security in the whole universe is found in the one who rules over all creation. If we put our trust in him, he will see us through even the most devastating catastrophes.
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