|A painting that shows animals getting on Noah's ark. Image source.|
"Mom?" Ham asked, pushing the door open tentatively. She was sitting inside, working on her sewing. "I was wondering if I could talk to you about something? ... I don't believe a loving God would send a flood."
"Oh..." said Naamah. "Here, why don't you come sit down. Tell me what you mean by that."
Okay, good so far, thought Ham. He sat down next to her. "So... you guys say that all people deserve to die because of their sin, but I don't think-"
SLAM! The front door was flung open, and there was Shem. "YOU GUYS! It's here! It's here! Praise God!"
"What's here?" asked Naamah. "The flood?"
"Yes!!! This is it! See, a bit of water just fell from the sky. Okay, where's Dad? Ham, go get Zedkat. How about you guys work on moving all the livestock and smaller animals. And make sure all the food compartments are sealed. ... Oh actually I'll probably need your help later with the bears, so we'd better hurry."
Ham looked at him, speechless. But this was the moment he would have to tell Shem directly.
"I don't believe in the flood."
"There is literally water falling from the sky right now," answered Shem impatiently. "Now go find your wife. And on second thought, maybe she can manage the livestock on her own so we have more time to deal with the bears."
Ham looked at him, and then looked outside, through the open door, at the spots of water appearing on the ground. Well, that's strange. But I still don't believe in the flood, he thought.
He looked back at Shem. "No," said Ham, trying to sound confident. "I don't believe in a God who would kill everybody this way."
"Ham! We don't have time for this right now! Go find your wife. I'll get Japheth." Shem turned and walked out, into the drizzle of rain. Naamah gave Ham a quick hug, said "it'll be okay, honey," and followed him.
No, I'm not doing this, Ham decided. I'm not helping them- I'm done with ark stuff. I don't serve the God of the Flood anymore.
A moment later, Shem was back. "COME ON!" he said angrily, his wet hand grabbing Ham by the arm. The two of them went out into the rain.
They arrived at the shack where two bears had been tied. Shem pointed and said, "Get me two of the ropes from over there."
"No. There is no flood."
"Okay, really? God has to punish sin. Now get me two ropes." Shem put several fresh fish into a basket. The bears sat up and looked at him curiously.
"But most people haven't committed any sins that deserve death."
Shem set the basket down and turned to face Ham. He sighed. "You've lost sight of God's holiness. Sin is a very serious thing, but our culture nowadays has declared that sin doesn't exist, there's no right or wrong, it's just 'anything goes.' They don't care about God's laws. But God is holy, and there's going to be a judgment.
"You say people's sins don't deserve death- but you see, God is perfect. He can't tolerate any sin at all. Sinful people can't be in his presence. And God is merciful- he gave everyone plenty of time to repent and believe in the ark, but eventually, there has to be a judgment. God is a God of justice. There has to be a flood." Shem walked over and picked up a few ropes.
"That's not justice," said Ham.
"Here, could you spear a few of those fish and hold them in front of the bears while I tie their collars together?" Shem asked, and Ham reluctantly did it. "You think sin isn't that bad? So you're saying you know more than God? Ham, everyone thinks their sin isn't that bad. We have a sinful nature- we don't even realize how depraved we are." He threaded a rope through the male bear's collar, tightening the knot as Ham offered the bear a fish.
"But people are made in God's image," Ham answered. "I think we always emphasized too much how 'people are basically bad'- well people are also basically good."
"Sure, and that's why God loves us and wants to save us from the flood. That's why he provided an ark. But God is just, and he has to punish sin."
"That's not justice," Ham said again, as Shem continued to get the bears ready. "Justice means lifting up the people who suffer, and bringing down the people who cause the suffering. There must be a judgment, but it's certainly not 'death for everyone.' That doesn't make any sense at all."
"No Ham, we deserve the flood. Don't listen to those worldly ideas of 'justice.' None of us deserve to be saved in the ark, none of us deserve to be with God. It's mercy. We're saved from the punishment we deserve. Hey, I'm about to untie the first bear, can you get another fish ready?"
Ham sighed. He turned around to get a fish, and nearly slipped on the wet floor.
"Open the door, I'm ready," directed Shem.
Ham pushed it open, and the sound of the rain was deafening. He could barely see three steps in front of him, and the water was already up to his ankles.
"Oh geez, we've wasted too much time. Well, at least bears can swim. I hope they've already got the horses onto the ark, they must be terrified," Shem said as he tugged on the rope to lead the bears out.
Ham didn't move. No, how can this be happening? A loving God wouldn't send a flood...
"HAM! FISH!" Shem yelled as he tried to drag the first timid bear outside. "And get me that stick, I'll have to push them."
Ham did what Shem said, and they pushed the two bears out into the downpour. In seconds, the cold water had completely soaked through Ham's clothes.
The four of them struggled toward the ark as the rain pounded mercilessly.
"You know, this is going pretty well," Shem mused. "Good thing I did that training stuff with the bears before. You know I wasn't sure if it was really necessary or not, but somehow I just felt like I should. Maybe it was God. Cool how it all worked out. God planned it that way."
Okay, that was it. Ham hadn't planned on saying anything else, but HOW DARE SHEM SAY THAT?
"No! Shem! God is love! A God who is love would NOT send a flood!"
"How can you deny the reality all around you?"
"HOW CAN YOU DENY THE INJUSTICE?!"
"NO! You're the one who's forgotten God's justice!" One of the bears snarled, and Shem slapped it. "You're watering down-" His voice was lost in the rain.
They approached the ark, and heard yelling. "SHEM! HAM! SHEM! HAM!" Then Naamah's voice: "Oh, thank goodness, there they are!"
Noah and Nahalath rushed down the ramp, waded toward Ham and Shem, and grabbed the bears' ropes. "We've already got all the other animals. Come on, let's go," said Noah. Three people and two bears half ran and half swam back to the ark, and Noah called out "Japheth, move!" Japheth, who had been counting the sacks of bird food as the world went to hell, jumped out of the way as the two panicked bears scrambled up into the ark. Noah chased after them; they needed to be locked in their own cell.
Only Ham was left. The water came up past his waist, and was rising fast.
"Ham! Ham! Come here!" several of his family members shouted through the storm. He could barely hear them. Then Zedkat's voice came through: "...God's salvation..."
And that was it. That was the moment that Ham decided, come hell or high water, I will not get on that ark.
Because the God of the flood was a God who wanted him to be grateful- yes, grateful- for rescue from the flood that he himself had caused. Yes, the ark was "salvation." And that God would expect him to live the rest of his life in debt, with a feeling like "oh I'm so unworthy, but God sent an ark to save me." As if Ham should be happy about the ark, and ignore the fact that it was this God who had created the problem in the first place. What a manipulative jerk.
To hell with that.
You can do anything you want to me, Ham thought, but you will NEVER have my worship.
He squinted, trying to pick out Zedkat's face through the blinding rain. This would be the last time he would see her.
"Zedkat, honey!" he yelled. He couldn't hear anything. "Zedkat! Zedkat!"
Somehow he heard her voice. "Ham! ... Come here! ... For God so loved the world..."
"Honey-" Ham began to cry out, but he was struck by a huge piece of floating wooden debris. He lost his balance and plunged underwater.
Struggling and splashing, Ham tried to stand up and get his head above water, but the current was too strong. His body twisted and flailed, and for a moment he felt air on his face and took a breath, mixed with rainwater. Then back into the cold water again.
Salvation... if only there was salvation...
Ham couldn't find the surface. He tried to cough, and swallowed water. Suddenly, two pairs of strong hands grabbed him. Kicking and gasping for breath, he was dragged back to the ark by Shem and Japheth. He couldn't speak, he couldn't form the word "no."
The three brothers collapsed on the wooden floor, and the door slammed shut.
To be continued...