The only safe place
“And the LORD shut him in.”
This particular sentence strikes me as one of the scariest in all of scripture. While righteous Noah built the Ark exactly as God commanded, and did everything else just as God commanded, we see that it was God, not Noah, who closed the deal. We have a kind of Sesame Street image of Noah cheerfully herding happy animals into the lovely Ark, but I suspect no Biblical event was darker or more frightening. The world was being destroyed. Noah was helpless and in control of nothing. The Lord shut him in.
At that moment, the Ark must have seemed to be the noisiest, smelliest, scariest place on earth. God shut him in and would not let him out for a long time.
The 17th-century Puritan writer Jeremiah Burroughs noted, perhaps speculatively but I think quite reasonably, “There was much affliction in the Ark.” Going in was not Noah’s idea, and quite likely he was more than ready to leave long before God let him out.
Has the Lord shut you in also? I mean, are you in a depressing or scary place? Chances are that many journalists would answer “yes” to that question these days. Our profession and industry is in a perilous place. Newspapers and many other media properties seem, if not yet washed away as if by Noah’s flood, certainly water-logged. (Our newsrooms were probably already noisy and smelly, even in good times, but that is a different story.)
I have my own bruises of affliction, most of them against only my ego, thankfully, – but, yes, I do know what it is to feel shut in. I get uncomfortable and unhappy, and I want to get comfortable and happy, and I ceaselessly brood over ways to achieve it. But my plans are ridiculous and very likely would be to my own harm. Did Noah jump out of the Ark?
I am so short-sighted. Maybe you are as well. We don’t understand our own circumstances, much less the bigger picture, or what the future holds. How much of the future could Noah have even dared to imagine when the Flood came? All he could do was trust God. God makes the plans. God is in charge. If we feel doomed, that is a call to rely on God, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:9.
Burroughs wrote, “… though we be shut up in great afflictions, and we may think of this and that and the other means to come out of that affliction, yet till God opens the door, we should be willing to stay; God has put us in, and God will bring us out.”
Charles Spurgeon wrote: “O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in His providence … There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, His heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy … He, if thou art one of His family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not His grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that He loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness.”
I think about that scripture: “And the LORD shut him in.” I find it frightening, but by grace I instead feel comforted. The Ark was full of affliction, the scariest place on earth – except, that is, for every other place on earth. We are in God’s hands. The only safe place.