A Ship on Dry Land

By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. The result? His family was saved… Hebrews 11:7[1]

The classic story of Noah’s ark weaves through many cultures around the world and across millennia. But beyond the saga presented on movie screens, through Bible studies, and in a big tourist attraction, that epic pulls heaven and earth together in a tight braid of timeless wisdom vs. moral goofiness and invisible vs. visible truth. 

 Noah’s Ark also presents a towering example of how things are rarely what they seem. Let’s look at that.

The focal point of the story is a ship sitting on dry land. Look at how it imposes a silent but disruptive image. Profoundly countercultural—out of sync with, and challenging to, everything—Noah’s ship had no flow with its environment. None. It was built in one time and place but would only work in a distant future no one had seen or considered. As we zoom out, we see a massive disaster racing like a tsunami below the surface. It’s moving toward us and all we cherish. 

Since no one could see the storm coming, a farmer building a 500-foot-long ship in his pasture probably suggested he was insane. He was apparently the only person on earth who built a ship “in the middle of dry land.” His neighbors probably joked about how he would drag that thing to the beach. 

I guess no one thought about water rushing to the ship.

Corrupt to the Core

God’s assessment of the earth was stark: “As far as God was concerned, the Earth had become a sewer; there was violence everywhere. God took one look and saw how bad it was, everyone corrupt and corrupting—life itself corrupt to the core. God said to Noah, ‘It’s all over. It’s the end of the human race. The violence is everywhere; I’m making a clean sweep.’” (Genesis 6:11-13)

If the Creator, who so loved the earth, held those thoughts, you know it was bad. Very bad. Beyond bad. No breezes of spiritual renewal, no prophetic voices, no fresh thinking, and no hope. “Corrupt to the core.”

 We too live in a sewer. The toxic streams of injustice, poverty, violence, lust, nihilism, etc. all flow into our water supply. So, why doesn’t God just “fix it?” Maybe because He thinks in terms of generations, eons, seasons, and seeds. Every seed carries entire orchards or forests. The Lord plays the long game. The very long game. 

Seeds of the Future

Genesis 6:8 says, “Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah.” Because God liked the guy, he warned him about things coming that could not be seen. And Noah acted on that. So, of all the people on earth, God only disclosed his heart to one person, a man who lived by faith—total confidence in God’s purposes and promises

God seemed more interested in saving Noah and his family than in rescuing the corrupt world. He would have a conduit for His seed that would produce a magnificent future. So, in His conversations with Noah, His words fell as seeds into Noah’s fertile and willing heart. 

When those seeds came up, they caused the man to complete a grueling, audacious, and historic construction project. As a true visionary, he built something that had no apparent purpose. Because Noah aligned with the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16), he had to build with none of the earth’s cultural and financial support. 

The lines of conflict were dramatic, literally “earth shaking.” The population of the earth comprised one team. God and Noah formed the other one. Then the future dropped into the soil of one human life. Even as neighbors mocked Noah, seeds cracked open below the surface. 

Then, suddenly, one day, rain revealed the only sane person on earth.

[1] All scriptures quoted are taken from THE MESSAGE: THE BIBLE IN CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH (TM): Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE: THE BIBLE IN CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH, copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

25 thoughts on “A Ship on Dry Land”

  1. I really enjoyed this Ed. I don’t think we can imagine how evil society had become at that time, for God to want to destroy it. Oh, to be that one man God likes!

  2. Just this week I watched a documentary on The Flood which was produced by people who believe the biblical account. It was very insightful. If you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it. I believe it is on Netflix.

    Always good to hear your thoughts, Ed. Always. Provocative and stimulating. Thanks for allowing your readers a peek into your brain.

    1. My immediate response was exactly the same as Mindy’s…I pray that I will be like Noah…I choose to be like Noah.

      Thank you, Ed.

  3. May God allow the faithful among us to see a bigger picture in these days of moral decay. What is it that we need to do now to prepare for what is to come? Is it simply to do right, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him – or is it that and something more?

    1. Thanks, Tim. Good question. I think the answer grows up in seed form…in and around and through us.

      I ordered your book today! It’s been in my Amazon basket long enough. I look forward to reading it.

  4. Your stuff is always good Ed. This presents all of us with a challenge: are we courageous enough to build our ship – or whatever- on dry land and please our God while looking foolish to the world? I rather think there is a great army out there that is caring less and less what the world thinks. Like Noah, we see the storm a coming. Laugh all you want world.

  5. Faith bends the guardrails from what we can see toward what no one has yet seen. Henry Ford imagined a horse-less carriage! Absurd! Leonardo da Vinci invented the helicopter 400 years before it was built! Ridiculous!

    These reality-busters are nothing new. Abraham, Moses, David, Samson…you know the tune. But this second list isn’t about folks who invent things. Rather, it’s about folks discovering reality that always has been, is here, and is still on its way. Like watching a long freight train—it’s been here, is here, and is still coming.

    In faith, Noah saw the guardrails bending, bending, from his dirt pumpkin patch toward something outlandish. Outlandish, as in outta his land and onto a boat. Absurd! Ridiculous! Reality-busting! And, yes, a little bit crazy.

    Or not.

    1. This is beautiful. I love that train…here and still coming. The past is always here and leaving. The future is always here and arriving.

      And I sure love those eternal guard rails.

      You wrote it better than I did. No surprise. You always have. Thanks so much, Craig.

  6. Ed,
    I preached a sermon on Noah and the flood a couple of weeks ago. While I found it difficult to preach, it was well received!

    You’ve shared great and timeless insights!

    Thank you.

  7. You propelled me to reread the story in one of the Septuagint translations. It seems that God was pleased with Noah because “without faith it is impossible to please HIM.” For 100 years Noah’s faith built the visible structure on the invisible word. There is something about the boat starting on dry land and ending on dry land…but the land was different. It had been cleansed. “I will never curse the earth further because of the deeds of humans…” (Genesis 8:21). There will be another One cursed to deal with further cleansing. Thank you, Ed, for always stimulating me to think more deeply.

  8. I love this quote: “God plays the long game. The very long game.” How easy to forget that in this culture of immediacy. But as Isaiah 46 tell us, He know the end from the beginning; and what He has purposed and spoken, that He WILL accomplish. It pays to trust Him and obey Him.

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