Now that it is over, how do you rate 2013? Are you singing with Sinatra, “It was a very good year”? We like good years where there is bountiful harvest, good health, memorable experiences with family and friends, and a general sense of peace and satisfaction. Those are the years we remember with fondness. We get out the photos or pop in the DVD and enjoy once again the pleasant times.
Then… there are those “other” years- the ones marked by loss and hardship and conflict. We pack the artifacts of bad years in a box tied with strong twine, and shove it in a corner of life’s attic, hoping to never look at it again.
The biblical man Noah lived a long time and a long time ago. Across his lengthy lifespan, he probably had a wide admixture of annual experiences. There were years that were good, bad, mediocre, exhilarating, frightening, happy, sad, mundane, forgettable- -the whole gamut.
But his 600th year was catastrophic— a life-changing, earth-shattering, epoch-making, never-to-be-repeated calamity. It was the year of the deluge- the great flood. He had been warned it would come and told how to prepare. But it was still catastrophic. The Bible’s description: “He (God) blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things to the birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those who were with him in the ark. And the water prevailed upon the earth 150 days.” (Gen. 7:23-24).
Now that’s a bad year! Everything and everyone Noah and his family knew, save their special menagerie, was gone. They rafted for just over a year. How long could they survive in this floating warehouse?
What was next? Would there be a “next”? “But God remembered Noah and all… that were with him in the ark.” (Gen. 8:1). It was New Year’s Day. “Now it came about in the 601st year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth.” (Gen. 8:13).
The old year was gone. The new year had come. The old year was the flood. The new year was dry ground. The old year was the deluge. The new year was the rainbow. The old year was filled with violence, and wickedness, and evil. The new year was filled with promise: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1). The promise would bring, not just a new year, but a new world!
Have you ever had a year that was marked by a “flood of mortal ills”? I have. Maybe 2013 was that kind of year for you. The Christian community in America seems to be going through a rough patch, too. Recent declines in areas of belief, morality, integrity, and godliness represent a flood of mortal ills. And the waters are rising rapidly. What will 2014 bring? Will we lose everything we’ve known? Can the church survive? Can we overcome what we have experienced in the past? How can we possibly prevail?
God will remember us. As Martin Luther wrote:
“And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.”
The Psalmist said it this way: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God. Thou hast smitten all my enemies on the cheek; Thou hast shattered the teeth of the wicked.” (Ps. 3:6-7).
It’s a new year. Be fruitful and multiply.