A Story Of God And All Of Us
by Roma Downey
Until now, nothing exists. No universe. No life. No light. No dark.
No breath. No hopes. No fears. No dreams. No shame.
There is only God. And God is Love.
Then, in instant, God becomes the Creator.
“Let there be light!” His voice booms out over the great void.
A bolt of infinite brightness vanquishes the nothingness, creating the heavens. And with that light comes wind, a raw blast sweeping across the brand-new universe. Then water, unformed and seemingly endless, soaks everything.
God parts the waters, creating the seas and sky and the land.
He decrees that plants and seeds and trees cover the land and that there should be seasons. And stars in the sky. And creatures throughout the land and waters.
Then God creates man in His own image. Then woman, because man should not be alone. Their names are Adam and Eve, and they inhabit a paradise known as Eden.
All this takes six days in God’s time.
On the seventh day, God rests.
But God’s perfect creation becomes flawed, despoiled by men and women who turn their backs on their Creator. First Eve, then Adam, then Cain, and on and on. Generations pass, and devotion to God has all but disappeared. Evil rules in the hearts of men and women. This does not please the Creator, who loves the earth and its people and wants only what’s best for them.
So God is starting over. He is destroying mankind in order to save it.
Which is how it came to pass that a large wooden ship now bobs on a storm-tossed sea. It is night. A howling wind and pelting rain threaten to sink the homemade vessel. The scene inside the ship is one of complete chaos. An oil lamp swings from the ceiling and illuminates a birdcage filled with two brightly colored parrots. An old man named Noah struggles to maintain his seat on a bench that is affixed to one wall. His wife sits next to him. On the other side of the cabin, Noah’s three terrified sons hold tight to their wives as the great ship heaves in the night. These bouts of terror are a daily fact of life for this extended family, but no one ever gets used to it.
Noah is suddenly hurled to the floor. He is not a sailor and has only reluctantly taken this journey. He hears, from below decks, the bellows of oxen, the whinnies of horses, the bleatings of sheep, and countless other animal cries of distress. There are precisely two of each type of beast and bird. Try as Noah might to muck out the stalls daily, the hold of the ark is a foul place, with little ventilation. Only a small row of windows on the upper deck of the vessel releases the stench of rotting grain and animal waste. It mixes with the dank humidity to form a cauldron of foul aromas. Those smells waft up through the decks to every clammy, claustrophobic room on the ark. The smells have not only seeped into the air that Noah and his family breathe, but into the fabric of their robes, the pores of their skin, and the simple meals they eat. If the storm would end, Noah could open a hatch and let in a fresh breeze. But this storm seems like it will never end.
A geyser of water spurts through a new leak in the hull. The women scream. Noah battles to stand and plug the hole. Outside the ship, a blue whale breaches. It is an enormous animal, and yet it is still dwarfed by Noah’s ark.
Noah is a strong leader, a loving husband, and a good father. He keeps his terrified family calm by telling them the story of creation. A story he knows well.
“On the third day,” Noah says calmly, “God created the land, with trees and plants—”
“Will we ever see land again?” asks the wife of Noah’s son Shem.
Noah ignores her. “. . . with trees and plants and fruit. And—”
“Will we?” the woman insists. She is beautiful, and the fear on her face is made all the more distressing because of her innocent look. “Will we see land again?”
Noah’s faith is at its very limit. Yet he puts on a brave face. “Of course.”He continues his narrative, if only because it gives them comfort. “And on the fifth day . . . all the creatures of the sea . . .” He chuckles to himself as he hears the cries of the two monkeys below decks. Their cage is next to that of the peacocks. Hardly creatures of the sea! “And of the air,” Noah adds, thinking of the doves and hawks living uneasily next to one another. “Then on the sixth day, all the creatures of the ground—which includes us! And we were granted paradise. Amazing isn’t it? Paradise. But then . . .” Noah pauses, gathers himself. The thought of what he is about to say confounds him. Mankind once had everything.
Everything. But then . . .
“But then Adam and Eve threw it all away! They ate from the one tree in paradise from which they were forbidden to eat. That was all God asked. Nothing more. Don’t—eat—from—this—tree. What could be easier?” Noah’s soliloquy is hitting its stride, even as the storm grows fiercer. Thunder booms loudly, as if an explosion has punched a hole in the ship. “Wrong choices,” he says bitterly. “Wrong decisions. This is the source of all evil—disobeying God. That’s why, with one simple act of willful disobedience, Adam and Eve caused evil to enter the world. That’s why we are on this ship. Because the evil that Adam and Eve introduced has spread throughout the world, and God is cleaning the earth so mankind can start all over.” He looks around the small cabin at the few people who fill it. His story has taken their minds off the storm, and he feels encouraged to keep talking. “That’s why God told me, ‘Build an ark.’ ” Noah pauses, remembering the humor in that moment. “I asked, ‘What is an ark?’ God told me, ‘It is the same as a boat.’ And I said to God, ‘What is a boat?’ ”
Everyone laughs. They have lived in a desert their whole lives—not much water, let alone a need to build a special craft to float upon it.
God described the ark to Noah. It would be designed and built according to specifications that God dictated. This enormous ship would hold two of each animal. Once it was complete, God would soak the world in a massive storm, flooding all the lands and killing all of God’s creation. Only the people and animals aboard Noah’s ark would live.
Noah built the ship, even though his friends mocked him and his own wife thought him a fool. Why, he was miles from the nearest water, with no way to launch his vessel. Yet Noah kept building, one nail and one board at a time, constructing pens to house the tigers and elephants and lions and rhinoceroses. His great ship towered above the desert floor and could be seen from miles away. Noah and his ark were a great joke, told far and wide, and many a man made the journey to see the ark—if only to shake their heads and chuckle at Noah’s folly.
Then the first drop of rain fell. That first drop was not an ordinary trifle of rain, for it hit the earth with a mighty splat that portended the coming of doom. The skies turned from the clearest blue to gray and then to black. “Go into the ark,” God commanded Noah. He obeyed and brought his family on board.
“I didn’t need to be told twice,” Noah reminds the rapt audience inside the small cabin. Each of them instantly remembers the race to get on board—while also remembering the heartbreaking sight of friends and neighbors now clamoring for a spot on “Noah’s folly.” But there was none.
The rains that poured down were unceasing. The waters grew higher as subterranean rivers burst up through the earth’s surface. Great tidal waves surged across the land. Flash floods wiped away homes, markets, villages. People died by the thousands. The lucky ones were those who could not swim and drowned instantly. Those who knew how to stay afloat had time to ponder their fate, and that of their loved ones, before the waters pulled them under.
And as the land slowly disappeared, to be replaced far and wide by only water, Noah closed the hatch, knocked away the supports. Soon the water lifted his massive ship—which floated quite well, much to his relief—and they bobbed away, bound for only God knew where. But one thing was certain: God would save them from destruction, no matter how bad the storms and how high the seas.
Noah’s story has had its desired effect. Everyone in the small cabin is now calm. Noah goes up on deck alone, and for the first time in what seems like months, the seas are calm. He knows the waters will soon recede.
The world starts over, thanks to Noah and his ark. God thinks of him as an upright man, and through him humanity is being given a fresh start. Through him, faith will be born. Through Noah, God will continue to embrace the world. Through Noah, God will execute his plan for mankind—a plan designed before the earth was created.
But before embracing the world, God will focus on a single nation of people who fear Him and Honor him and worship Him. In that nation will live a man upright and faithful, as is Noah. His name will be Abram.But that is all still to come.
Noah now revels in the warmth of the sun on his face. The ark is bobbing toward land, and he can already feel the floodwaters receding. Then he hears God’s voice loud and clear, and he knows his journey is over.
“Come out of the ark,” God commands.
The great door on the side of the ark is lowered. The animals pour out onto the dry land and quickly scatter.
God has saved the world by nearly destroying it. Noah was chosen to continue God’s plans for humanity. But mankind is fickle, and destined to make the same mistakes once again, turning their backs on God and His all-encompassing love.
But God will act once again to save the world. For all time. But next time He will not need a Noah.
Next time He will send His only son.
This is a story of God and all of us.