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Devotional: March 4, 2022

18So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. 21And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odor, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.

Genesis 8: 18-21 NRSV

What is your priority? This snippet of the story of Noah and his family surviving the flood can be instructive for us. They had endured an unimaginable trial: building a huge wooden ship while their neighbors laughed and made fun of them. Then they filled the ark, stocking it with all the animals of the earth. The final chapter up to this point is the most famous episode of all: they all survived forty days of rain!

Surely, they must have been eager and ready to get off that ark, and to put their feet on dry ground.

What is the first thing you would have done, if you had been Noah?

The first thing Noah did was to praise the Lord. He builds an altar to the Lord. His very first act after surviving the storm was to thank God for preserving his life, and the life of his family.

This story is timely because we are coming to the end of the mandates for mask-wearing in our state. Although Noah’s storm was completely over, we will still have some “weather” to endure. Covid numbers are coming down, but are by no means eliminated. Yet I believe we all pray that the worst of our storm is behind us.

I know most of you are weary of hearing about the pandemic. To be honest, I am tired of writing about it. Yet what fascinates me is how people are responding to the announcement of the end of mandates.

Some are engaging in Monday morning quarterbacking over what could or should have been done differently by our leaders. Others are talking about what they missed most during the pandemic, which they are now eager to resume. Yet, are we hearing an overwhelming, altar-building praise and thank you to the Lord? I don’t believe so…

Look once again at this passage, to see what happens next. Noah builds an altar, and then offers a sacrifice to the Lord. God is so pleased by the aroma of the sacrifice that he makes a promise to Noah. The Lord says, “I will never again let such a storm occur.”

What this tells me is that God notices when we offer Him thanks and praise. We should never assume that saying “thank you” doesn’t matter. It does, more than we could ever imagine. We need to always remember to thank the Lord for the big and little things, and not focus on what is yet to be done. As we emerge from some of the more frustrating and discouraging parts of this pandemic, remember to thank the Lord for what he has already done in our lives, both large and small.

For those who have lost loved ones, this may feel like something you can never do. Look to the scriptures to find examples of so many people who survived devastating and life altering experiences, and yet still found it within their hearts to praise the Lord. May you be encouraged by their survival stories, and their altar-building experiences.

At times, we need to build arks, to get us through the storms of life. Other times, we need to build altars: places where we give our thanks to God for getting us through those storms. Right now, as our current storm is subsiding, it may well be a good time to build an altar…

Prayer

Almighty God,

I offer You my thanks and praise, for You are more powerful than every storm I face. You have saved me, and continue to save me, from forces that would drown me. Forgive me when I do not trust You, thinking You have forgotten me. Even when the world ignores me, I can always turn to You, offering my sincerest thanks and praise. You are the One who gets Your children through the storms of life. Therefore, hear my praise to You, this very day. I pray this prayer in the name of Your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


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