WAITING ON GOD AND PIZZA

I’ll never forget my boss’s reply to a demanding department head who wanted his project moved to top priority for our maintenance crew: “Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for me!”

I gasped and laughed out loud.  I did not think anyone, much less the head of a lowly maintenance department, could talk that way to one of the senior ministers in Atlanta’s largest megachurch and get away with it.

But he did.

I wonder if God wouldn’t say something similar to us when, in our hurry to achieve the next thing on our agenda, we run smack dab into the reality that our lack of patience does not constitute a crisis for him.

Ps. 27:14 Wait on the Lord;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the Lord![1]

True, sometimes we use the excuse of waiting on God to cover a lack of planning or initiative. As Denzel Washington said, “Dreams without goals remain dreams, just dreams, and ultimately fuel disappointment.” But waiting on God is a pattern that runs throughout scripture.

Noah spent more than a year inside the Ark, sending out first a raven and then a dove to see if the ground was dry. Yet still he waited, even when the dove did not return, until God said, “Come out of the ark …”

Abraham waited till he and Sarah were past their normal childbearing years before God fulfilled his promise of an heir.

Joseph waited years in slavery to Potiphar the Egyptian, then two more years in prison before he was called to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and elevated to Prime Minister of the kingdom.

I doubt that Moses had this message in mind when he recorded those stories in Genesis, but for those of us in the smartphone generation, where information is instantaneously at our fingertips, it’s important to understand that life does not move on our timetable and God is never in a hurry.

The list is long and full of success for people who learned to wait on the Lord. Moses, David, Daniel, and Elijah come to mind. But waiting on him is not the same as doing nothing. It is more like waiting on the pizza delivery man by putting the plates on the table, the ice in the glasses, and the salad in the bowls and getting the dressing out of the fridge. It is a time of watchful expectancy instead of indolent passivity; patient trust and preparation instead of fussy anxiety and inconsequential busyness.

When the trust is total, the heart is quiet, and the preparation is complete, the task is entered into with confidence and the results, usually, are satisfying. Either way we are living with respect for the One who is truly in charge.

[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Ps 27:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

NOAH STILL SPEAKS

It’s amazing how well an atheist movie director can preach when he has the right story to tell.

I say that because of something my dearest professor, L. Reginald Barnard, taught us in seminary in the 1980s. “Preach the great themes of salvation gentlemen. Topical preaching is mostly psychology, which we love today, but the great themes of salvation are eternal.” That’s what struck me when I watched Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH: It preached the themes and it preached them well.

I liked the movie on many levels. If you think thematically there is much to like. If you want a platform from which to launch a great discussion on the nature of man and the justice and mercy of God, Aronofsky & company just gave it to you.

If however you want a literal retelling (that probably wouldn’t have sold tickets to a secular audience) then this is not your film.

Here’s a checklist of theological themes that the movie gets right: God’s good creation – check; Adam & Eve’s ability to choose – check; The fall – check; The depravity of man – check, check, check; The image of God in man – check; Justice – check; Mercy – check; Redemption – check; Love – check; Providence – check; The certainty of judgment for man’s evil – check; The importance of generational blessing – check; Miracles in service of salvation – check; The dignity of righteousness – check; The preservation of a righteous remnant (Noah’s family as the re-birth of the human race) – check. There may be more that I missed.

I also appreciated how Aronofsky & company answered some of the questions of the curious: like how the ark got built, how the animals stayed calm in the ark and what the Nephilim might have been (good old Industrial Light and Magic comes through again). Yes, they took literary license to create dramatic tension, but none of that diminished the power of the great themes.

As with any film of a Bible story, there were some problems. Here’s a checklist of things they got wrong or left out: Man’s dominion over the animals and the command that they are for our food (they put this in the mouth of the bad guy); The sacrifice of thanksgiving after the flood is missing; Noah’s confusion about his family’s role in the new world; Ham as a kind of Edmund Pevensy character (see Narnia); God’s covenant with Noah is illustrated (see rainbow) but not explained.
Most of all I identified with Noah as a man of God trying with all of his might to do the right thing and wondering if he had failed God, wondering if he had erred on the side of mercy, or justice. That was very powerful, very moving. I know, I know, it isn’t in the text. It is literary license. But any pastor worth his salt will tell you he has struggled with the same things.

Bottom line: NOAH gets most of the themes right. It is, as a Facebook friend has said, “a thinking man’s movie,” and well worth your time and money.