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Ravens, Doves, and the End of the World

I have believed since the 80’s that we are heading toward a time of troubles and the last year has not lessened my growing conviction. Part of the reason I’ve believed that comes down to a pertinent Biblical question: When the foundations are destroyed, what shall the righteous do?

This morning’s reading led me to a not-surprising and yet surprising answer to that question. It was the world famous story of Noah’s ark, after the flood has ceased but Noah is still in the ark.

You will remember that, at the end of forty days, Noah opened the window in the ark and he sent out a raven. It flew back and forth waiting for the waters to dry up.

Then he released a dove, to see whether the waters were receding.

As one who believes that the Bible is quite simply the most meaningful text ever written, who believes that every word bears the weight of universes of meaning even while meaning something, I was struck by the use of the dove throughout scripture. He is the Holy Spirit. There are probably implications here about the meaning of the raven, but I leave that to you.

The dove was sent out for a purpose and since it found nowhere to perch, it returned to the ark. Perhaps that is like when He sends His Holy Spirit to us and we don’t receive Him. Again, I leave that to you.

Surely, however, the statement that He returned “because there was water over the whole surface of the earth” recalls Genesis one, where we found this same dove brooding over the face of the waters.

After waiting seven more days, Noah released the dove. In the evening it returned with an olive leaf.

After waiting an additional seven days, He released the dove and it returned to him no more.

Do you remember that back in chapter six it told us how “the fountains of the great deep” were broken up and “the windows of heaven were opened?”

In Biblical imagery, the earth is like a mountain where the temple of God is at the top and the deep is at the bottom. The temple is heaven on earth, but from the cosmological perspective, it is sometimes presented as heaven without qualification. The Garden of Eden is presented in Genesis three as the temple at the top of the mountain where heaven and earth join.

The mountain itself is earth. At the base of the mountain is the wilderness and under that is the underworld, or the great deep.

It is as though heaven and hell teamed up to destroy the earth, though obviously for very different reasons and from very different motives. As in every case, the evil one only serves to achieve the Lord God’s purposes in the end.

Two things struck me while reading Genesis 8 this morning. First, we are reading about a new creation of the world. The echoes of Genesis one are all over Genesis eight.

Second, while the world will never again be destroyed by a flood, nevertheless, the people who live on it possess a deep death-wish. Their fear leads them to leap from temples, which they have first to build, such as the one at Babel.

Consequently, there will always be cycles of construction and destruction, of building and tearing down.

What are those who seek to stay faithful to God supposed to do?

“Noah was a good man, an upright man among his contemporaries, and he walked with God.” Genesis 6:9

There you see the general condition: a good man. You see the extraordinary achievement: even then he was upright among his contemporaries. And you see the main thing: he walked with God.

Apart from those three things, it does not matter what else we do.

If we do those three things, it is possible that God will come to us and say something like this: “I have decided that the end has come for all living things… So I am now about to destroy them and the earth. Make yourself an ark.”

Of course, in Noah’s case, that message was total: only Noah and his family would survive. That won’t happen again, though it will certainly feel like it.

For some years now, people like Rod Dreher and many others have been writing about the coming troubles. Dreher has proposed what he calls a Benedict Option. Others have protested and called for a Constantinian option. Still others have proposed variations and permutations.

I do not know what you should do, apart from this: be a good man. Be upright, even in this upside down age. Walk with God. And listen.

There is a raven wandering to and fro on the earth and he sometimes turns into a lion when he sees something he can devour.

Get into the temple and hide under the wings of the cherubim, where you will find the mercy seat, the seat of grace, and the one who intercedes for us. The spritual ark is the one that matters most. If you are in one of those, then God will tell you whether to build a physical one and He’ll even give you the measurements for it.

Provide your family with your daily bread, first spiritual then physical. Get this backward and all is lost.

Form or join a community with others who will not compromise but will be upright among their contemporaries, people who want to walk with God. He’ll guide you and provide for you if you pray believing.

The point is this: whether the world is coming to an end or not, the false world within you is. It will be destroyed by the God of truth. Run for the hills! Or rather, run to the mountain at the top of which we find the temple of our God, and lift your eyes up to the mountains. That is where your help will come from: from the Lord who made heaven and earth.

And then remade them.

And has continued to do so repeatedly whenever there are people who will walk with Him.

I know this lacks specificity. That is because I cannot know what God is telling you, except that if you want to inherit the land you must walk with Him and it is a costly, cross-bearing walk.

So when the foundations are destroyed, when the fountains of the deep break up, when the windows of heaven open, what can the righteous do?

Read Psalm 124.

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