We may not immediately associate the rest of God (Sabbath) with the account of Noah and his ark but there are clear connections to be found in these foundational stories. Noah means rest in Hebrew. After sin (people ignoring God’s limitations) is dealt with, the ark rests on Ararat, which means sacred mountain. God actively dealt with, and continues to deal with sin in our lives and in our world, not to punish us, but to give us rest, peace, garden, and relationship. He wants us to be fruitful and multiply without being driven beyond our limits.
Genesis 2:1-3, 6:14, 8:4
It’s interesting to imagine what it must have been like for Noah and his sons to build a giant boat on dry land. What kinds of things were said about Noah as he stood out from the rest of the world by being righteous and by building an ark? In many ways, seeking rest in God and building churches that value restfulness is like building an ark on dry land. We live in a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world. This hurried existence often makes its way into the church. Many ministers have thought and even said, “I’ll rest when I’m dead.” Is this the posture that God wants from his leaders? Is this the spirit that he desires for his church?
Like building a boat on dry land, promoting a spirit of rest, Sabbath, and true reliance on God can be counter-cultural. It should be said that this posture of restfulness and reliance in no way devalues hard work. Noah certainly worked hard to build the ark and fill it. And if you’ve ever tried to truly unplug and rest in God then you know how difficult it can be.
We might be tempted to characterize our work as Christians as either hard-working or lazy (and to some extent that’s fair). But a better characterization might be that we’re either self-reliant or God-reliant. The way these two types go about their lives will be very different. Both types will get results. But the fruit of the God-reliant Christians will certainly outlast that of the Christians who grow in their church with too much of their effort and not enough rest and trust in God.
Some reflective questions:
In the lesson above on human limitations, you considered if you were doing too much and how that was affecting your church. With that in mind, what practices could you adopt to keep yourself resting and relying on God?
- How can valuing sacred rest help you to work even harder and more effectively for God’s Kingdom?
- What practices or rhythms might be healthy for your church to stay grounded in God so you can avoid the chaotic flood waters of our world’s frantic pace?
- Noah built the ark on dry land. No one understood what he was doing for God but it was still right. What “arks” are you building or should you be building in your community as a church?