Headlines from the New York Times for Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Harvey, Irma, Jose … and Noah (Editorial by David Brooks)
Is there anything we can learn from hurricanes, storms and floods?
People have been asking that question for thousands of years, and telling stories that try to make sense of natural disasters. These flood myths are remarkably similar to one another.
A researcher named John D. Morris collected more than 200 of them, from ancient China, India, Native American cultures and beyond. He calculates that in 88 percent of the tales there is a favored family. In 70 percent, they survive the flood in a boat. In 67 percent, the animals are also saved in the boat. In 66 percent, the flood is due to the wickedness of man, and in 57 percent the boat comes to rest on a mountain top.
The most famous story, of course, is the biblical story of Noah. As the story begins, the human race is living without law, and as a result is living violently and badly. But there was one righteous man, Noah. God tells Noah to build an ark because He is going to wipe out the rest of humanity with a great deluge.
What does Noah say when he hears this? Nothing. Abraham protested to God when the city of Sodom was under threat of destruction. Moses protested when God was going to harm the Israelites. But Noah is silent. He doesn’t try to save his neighbors or argue with his God.
Rabbis and scholars have often judged Noah harshly for this. “He is incurious, he does not know and does not care what happens to others,” Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg writes. “He suffers from the incapacity to speak meaningfully to God or to his fellow human beings.”
“Noah was righteous but not a leader,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes. A leader takes responsibility for those around him and at least tries to save the world, even if people are too wicked to actually listen. Moral integrity demands positive action against evil. Noah, by contrast, opts to withdraw from the corrupt world, in order to remain untainted.
Readings from the Prophet Hosea for Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Hosea 5.15 – I will return again to my place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. In their distress they will beg my favor.
God’s judgment is to withdraw his presence from people. We are currently witnessing an unprecedented turning away from religion in America. Europe is called by some “the graveyard of the church.” Could it be that this phenomena is not just that people have no interest in God, but that God has turned away from a culture that relates to him with the same deep relationship we have at a drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant?
People who read blogs like this do well to intentionally return to a deep relationship with God.
Jeremiah gives us hope: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24.7).
Prayers for Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Dear God, may we return to a personal relationship with you with our whole heart.