Noah’s Ark is probably the most misunderstood Bible Story in the West. In fact, I am quite certain that if it is even considered by normal, everyday people, it is glossed over. Thus, we are left with this:This here image is essentially how everyone sees the ark. A barely seaworthy vessel cruising along with a bunch of happy and cute animals. Oh, and Noah is shocked that the beavers are eating the boat apparently.
It doesn’t help that when Protestants write books to help explain it to children, we get this:
When the flood is explained to children, quite often the story that is told is that the animals went on the boat two by two and Noah and his family got aboard. God warned Noah of the flood and Noah tried to warn the others, but they laughed at him. Then, when the flood happens, we don’t hear about people anymore. We just hear that the waters flooded the Earth.
The flood was God’s judgment and God had judged every other person other than Noah and his family of being unworthy of living due to their immense sins. This included small children and babies. As we know, the rains came for 40 days and 40 nights.
Where else do we see the number 40?
In Exodus, when the Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years for disobeying God’s commandments. We also see 40 in the New Testament when Jesus fasted before He began His public ministry.
Something we must keep in mind is that God is a God of order. He uses patterns to convey meaning to us. We hear 40 and we think about this:
Great Lent. We see 40 days as a journey to Pascha. Some people view Lent as the “Catholic Season” like how a football player sees football season or a baseball player sees baseball season. Lent to them is the sport and Good Friday is the Super Bowl, with Pascha being the ring to crown their sufferings. Some other well-intentioned people see Pascha as the big event and think that the entirety of our Christian lives are for that feast. They think we live for Pascha. Pascha is indeed a very important feast. It is so important that we celebrate for 40 days. Wait. 40? I thought 40 was only for penitential actions. But Jesus was with the apostles for 40 days and ascended so surely that can’t mean 40 is for penance can it? 40 actually means something completely different but more on that later.
BACK TO THE ARK
This is where the fun begins. Everyone knows how long the flood lasted. 40 days and 40 nights, right? Well, as President Donald Trump famously said in his debate against Hillary Clinton, “WRONG!” It RAINED for 40 days and 40 nights. But after the rain stopped, it took 150 days for the waters to subside. 150 is an interesting number. That’s the number of Psalms in the Bible. 150 is only seen in the Bible in these two instances. Yet, if it is next to a prophetic number such as 40, then 150 must have meaning too. After all, if you divide it by 3 (number of persons in the Holy Trinity) you get 50. 50 is the Pentecost, which to the Jew is when they received the law on Mount Sinai and to the Christian is when they received the Holy Spirit. Add 100 days to the liturgical calendar from pentecost and you are roughly at the end of the year. But then again, performing math calculations on a number in the Bible isn’t the best evidence.
The only other evidence is the usage of the Psalter. In the monastic community, the Psalter is read either weekly or daily. At the end of an Eastern Christian’s life, the Psalter is read over them. A full chotki has 150 knots in representation of the Psalter and is prayed unceasingly until one’s death. Thus I have drawn the conclusion that 150 days represents the time until the second coming, when we receive our “promised land.”
If you consider the story of the ark, you have Noah building and readying his ark for the day when the world is cleansed of sin. Those on the earth were either drowned in the waters or redeemed by them. Thus, the 40 days represent intense preparation. After the cleansing was completed, it took 150 days for the flood waters to subside. Although cleansed, the world was still a much dangerous place. It wasn’t until that time period ended that Noah was able to inherit his new world.
If you consider the Exodus, the Jews lived in slavery. Once they were freed, they were given the opportunity to enter the promised land. But they disobeyed God and turned back. Unlike Adam and Eve who took what they were commanded not to take, the Israelites did not take what they were commanded to take. Thus they were punished, and all those who had directly disobeyed God were not permitted to enter the land, not even Moses. They wandered for 40 years, but even though the time was up, the land was not ripe for the taking. They still had to suffer much before they could claim the land.
Now look at our Lord and Savior. He lived 30 years in secret. Other than His Nativity and the finding in the temple, there is no recorded history of Jesus. It is only after He begins His ministry with His Baptism that we see His actions. Jesus fasted for 40 days only to be presented with more temptation. Then after that was done, He suffered a brutal passion for our sins.
WE ARE AN EASTER PEOPLE
So how does this apply to us? I remember on the first day of Lent, back when I was a Roman Rite Catholic a priest saying “We are not a Lenten people, we are an EASTER people.” And I disagreed thinking to myself “nuh-uh we are a Lenten people because we are supposed to do penance.”
If you were to ask me why I thought that I would reply with “Because we are sinners, and sins are bad, so we do penance to show God we are sorry for our sins, because Christ died on the cross for us.” So for me, it ended at the cross, and for the priest, it ended at Easter. We forget that we are in that 150 days after the 40 days.
We were sinners before our baptism. If we converted as adults, we fasted for 40 days and were then raised to new life. We celebrated our baptism, chrismation, and first communion for a while, but then we got comfortable wearing our baptismal robe. It is no longer a new robe, but one we have worn for a long time, and we wear it to our deathbed. The goal is to make it to our deathbed with it being unstained. But, like all bright white garments, you can hardly sit down without even a tiny speck of dust blemishing it. That is why we have the Mystery of Repentance (Confession).
You see, we dont live for Pascha or Good Friday. Pentecost isn’t the afterparty. We live for the last Holy Day. The Second Coming. It is at the Second Coming that the waters finally recede and we can finally get off the boat of the Church without drowning. The Church on Earth is modeled after a ship and represents us sailing to heaven, which is the Church in Heaven. It is not a cruise ship. It is not a floating buffet outfitted with a casino and free drinks. It is an ark keeping us from the flood that will consume us in judgement.
We receive two baptisms. One is a baptism of water. The other is a baptism of fire. With Christ we have Baptism and Chrismation and are thus sanctified. But if we do not have God, the water drowns and the fire consumes. Let us always be wary.