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From the back cover:
Noah was in shock. It had been nearly one hundred twenty years since God told him this flood would come. Now that it was here, he couldn’t bear it.
Noah understood quite well what was taking place outside and why God had determined it had to be that way. Still, the reality was agonizing.
Why, oh why, did they not listen? Noah thought. He shed no tears. He had cried so much and so often in these recent days that his body could produce no more. He continued to stare into his lap. Noah wished the screams outside were not real. He wished to awaken from this nightmare. But he could only endure it.
As the rain pounded the roof and the people outside suffered, minutes were like hours. Familiar voices were begging him to open the door. Noah knotted his fists into his cloak and tried to hold on.
We huddled together around the table, terrified of what was to come. Though we had been warned, the reality of what was happening was almost more than we could bear. We violently pressed our hands to our ears to block the sounds from those outside, but we could not keep from hearing their screams. The sound of fingernails clawing desperately at the sides of the ark went through us like a knife blade.
Nothing could be worse than this, I thought.
But it did get worse. I began to hear familiar voices. The cries of strangers were harrowing enough, but now I could hear the shouts of my mother’s sister and her son. When my wife, Tamara, heard her mother’s voice, she could stand no more.
“Japheth, we must help them!” she exclaimed.
Suddenly, Tamara leapt and ran toward the door. I rushed after her. I had to stop her from lowering the door. I was certain that if the door were opened, so many people would rush in that the ark would capsize. When we entered the ark, even though no rain had fallen, my father had been adamant that the door be closed immediately. Now, hearing the panic-stricken people outside, I understood why.
I could barely see Tamara as she ran down the dark passage. But I heard her hysterical cries. I grabbed her just as she clamored for the latch that I had made. God had not bothered to give any instruction as to how we were supposed to hold the door closed. Dad would not listen to my elder brother Ham’s fears about how the door would be torn open in rough water. He would not consider allowing us to install the huge latches that we had built because he had received no “instruction from God” to do so. So on the day we entered the ark, Ham distracted Dad with one question after another while I bolted the latches. We placed fodder in front of the door to hide our handiwork.
Before either of us could utter a word, we suddenly heard a low growl, like that of a great bear, coming from the other side of the hull. The sound came with such intensity that it stood out from the cries outside and our own cries inside. The growl was followed by a pounding on the outside of the hull as if it was being hit with a sledgehammer.
A loud creak rose above all the sounds of agony and anger from outside. The hull groaned and popped. The ark tilted sharply. I held tightly to Tamara and cushioned her from falling into the wall. The ark was beginning to move. Would it float, or had our efforts merely succeeded in delaying our deaths?
It was as we stood there, trying to keep our balance, that we noticed the door. A few hours before, Ham and I hurriedly tried to seal the seam around the door with pitch because water was seeping in. Now there was no seam. In fact, the hull now looked as solid on this side of the ark as it did on the other. I tossed the fodder aside to reveal that our latches hung open, holding nothing. I was stunned.
In the months before the rain came, exotic animals we had never seen before began to congregate in the woods and hills near our home. Their gathering at a time so close to the ark’s completion made me want to believe that God was with us. Still, I had so much doubt. But something about the now-useless latches touched me more deeply. It was as though God was speaking directly to me, letting me know that the work of my hands could never save us. The latches and all the pitch would not have kept the water from rushing in the door. But God somehow had sealed it completely.
All that Dad had said was true. Dad never gave up, despite the years of ridicule and taunting he had endured. Even when he knew we doubted his sanity, he pressed on. This perseverance came because God had actually spoken to my father. It was almost too much to comprehend. My knees began to shake, and I felt faint.
Tamara noticed the door too. Her cries quieted to whimpers. Then she began again.
“We have to let them in,” she said, now wild-eyed. She beat on the sealed door with all the energy she could muster. But her efforts were for naught. She could not open the door, no matter how hard she tried. None of us could. Even in the midst of being inspired by God’s handiwork, I worried briefly how we would ever get out.
But that concern passed as I noticed that the cries of the people outside were subsiding. Tamara’s cries stopped as she seemed to resign herself pitifully to the people’s inevitable plight. I grasped Tamara in my arms, and our backs slid along the hull as we clung to one another. We couldn’t cover our ears tightly enough. We could not escape the reality that people were dying just inches from where we sat. Everyone we had ever known outside our immediate family would surely be drowned soon. But for the word that God had spoken to Dad, we would have perished as well.
Shem told himself that he had to stand strong with his father, Noah, and their God. He wasn’t sure that his baby brother, Japheth, and particularly his wife, Tamara, had the strength to endure what they were hearing outside. Shem knew that Japheth wanted to believe what Dad had taught them about God. At the same time, Shem realized that Japheth was sometimes too greatly influenced by their middle brother, Ham.
Our brother…humph, Shem thought.
Sometimes he wished that were not true. Since they had been small boys, Ham had always wanted things his way. In Ham’s mind, all the rest of the family existed for his convenience. He had refused to help with the ark in the first two years that Noah, Shem, and Japheth worked on it. Finally, Dad forced him.
Shem had thought about stopping Tamara from running from the room. But she was Japheth’s responsibility. He had his own wife, Prisca, and his mother, Sapphira, to be concerned with. He looked around at their faces and stopped on his father’s. His long, gray hair and beard did not have the flowing quality Shem was used to. Instead, they were damp and stringy. His head hung down as he stared into his lap, yet Shem could tell he wasn’t praying. He seemed frozen in that position. Sapphira had her head on the table, her face hidden. Her forearms covered her ears with her fingers laced behind her head. Shem wondered if she were having any success in blocking out the sounds from outside. The silent shaking of her shoulders as she sobbed answered his question.
Shem held his dear Prisca’s head in his lap and stroked her hair. Prisca was a passionate woman, and she made no attempt to hide her grief. She sobbed openly and loudly. No one spoke against her. It was as if she expressed what they all felt. As he tried to comfort her, Shem could not help but wonder about his own behavior. He had heard the cries, but he had yet to shed a tear. He felt he was being strong, but maybe he was numb.
He couldn’t come to grips with the fact that people outside were drowning. He kept thinking that, in a couple of days, they would open the door and see those who they knew standing there. Their loved ones would have been through quite an ordeal, but now God would have their attention. Now they would admit that the warnings from Noah had been true.
Shem had these hopes. But deep in his heart he knew that it would not happen that way. Dad said that God had made it clear He had had enough. God had instructed them on building the ark. And soon, perhaps within hours if all that Dad had perceived from God came true, all those outside the ark would perish. Shem’s mind just couldn’t comprehend it. So he sat and stared blankly.
Noah was in shock. It had been nearly one hundred twenty years ago since God had told him this flood would come. Now that it was here, Noah couldn’t bear it. The week before, when he and his family entered the ark and closed the door, Noah had been reeling from the loss of his beloved grandfather, Methuselah, who had died just two weeks before the rain came. If not for his grandfather, Noah might never have completed the ark. It was Methuselah who had encouraged Noah from the start and had been there in support during all the times when Noah doubted himself.
Noah understood quite well what was taking place outside and why God had determined it had to be that way. Despite that, the actuality was debilitating.
Why, oh why, did they not listen? Noah thought. He shed no tears. He had cried so much and so often in these recent days that his body could produce no more tears. He continued to stare into his lap. Noah wished the screams outside were not real. He wished to awaken from this nightmare. But he could only endure it. As the rain pounded the roof and the people outside suffered, minutes were like hours. Noah knotted his fists into his cloak and tried to hold on.
The sounds of agony from outside had gradually faded as Adina, Ham’s wife, tried in vain to sleep. She sobbed loudly as she lay on her crude pallet inside a storage room within the ark. Her husband, Noah’s middle son, lay beside her on his back, staring at the ceiling. Ham had forced her to move their belongings into the storeroom after only three days of being quartered with the rest of the family. Adina assumed he had not wanted to be near them. She hadn’t been given an explanation. Ham wasn’t in the habit of explaining his actions to her.
She didn’t like it here. The pallet that Ham had fashioned for them was crude, made of the same straw that was to be used to line some of the animals’ cages. After one night of sleeping in the dark storeroom, Adina longed for the comfort of the bed they had abandoned in the living quarters and for the welcoming glow of the fireplace there.
As she lay there crying, her back turned toward Ham, her husband rose up on one elbow.
“Shut up!” he bellowed. Adina jumped, then pulled her hands to her mouth in an attempt to stifle her sobs. Ham leaned toward her, his mouth so close to her ear that she could feel his breath on her cheek.
“Isn’t it enough that I had to hear that,” Ham yelled, waving his arm toward the hull. “Do I have to lie here trying to get some sleep and listen to your blubbering too?”
Adina cringed and tried to force herself to stop crying. Ham grunted in exasperation, pulled the blanket from Adina’s back, and left the room. At that moment, Adina felt more alone than at any time she could ever recall. Left to shiver uncovered on the cold pallet, Adina longed for her parents.
She never really meant to leave them. Adina’s faith in God was strong. Until a few days ago, however, her faith in the pending flood had not been so strong. She had walked up the ramp following closely behind Ham, yet she had done so primarily out of loyalty to him and respect for her in-laws. She really didn’t believe at that time that she would never see her parents again. At that thought she abruptly sat up, stood, and walked to the far corner of the room, weaving through shelves of supplies and barrels of wheat. Her arms folded across her stomach, Adina leaned against a barrel and thought about praying.
She did not pray. She knew on a conscious level that God loved her. She didn’t doubt that. She knew that, for reasons she didn’t fully understand, He had spared her. Still, she didn’t want to talk to Him. She wanted to talk to her parents. She wanted to wrap her arms around her mother and smell the familiar odor of lavender that seemed to always be present in her hair. Tears began to run down Adina’s cheeks more rapidly now. Not knowing what to do with herself, she returned to the pallet.
Adina lay on her side, pulled her knees in close to her chest, wrapped her arms around her shins, and rocked slightly. She knew God loved her. She knew her husband loved her, despite his eruptions. She knew these things, but as she lay alone on the cold floor, she could not feel it. This was a moment when the love of an aloof husband was simply not enough. Even the love of God, whom she had never actually seen or touched, didn’t ease her suffering. Adina could not remember ever wanting her mother and stepfather so much. As she lay there rocking, the flames from the candles flickered and then went out. Alone in the darkness of the storage room, Adina stopped fighting for composure and let the sobs take over her body.
She couldn’t see the One sitting in the corner of the room. He wanted to reach out to her. He wanted to scoop her up in His arms and hold her as her stepfather had when she was a little girl. That opportunity would come, but it could not be today.
He sat and kept watch over Adina and the others. He had walked about the ark and laid His hand upon the animals so that they slept peacefully. He had stood for a time beside the table as Noah stared blankly. He looked at Tamara and Japheth’s faces as they first noticed the door after He had sealed it.
As He watched His people, as He saw the tears flow, He suffered in a way no one else on the ark could fathom. He suffered for those outside. He felt every tear that fell inside. Oh, that they could know how His heart broke for them. But they couldn’t understand. He knew that. So He sat quietly with Adina and wept.