Monday, December 8, 2014
Ready for action
The children’s cartoon character Fireman Sam gives the ‘thumbs up’ with his catchphrase “Ready for action!”
SOME YEARS ago, I took my oldest daughter, who is now in her mid-20s, to a theatre show of Fireman Sam, the children’s character from South Wales whose catch phrase was: “Ready for action!” I can still do the circular thumbs up gesture that went with the slogan, to the embarrassment of my family and friends.
This week we’re going to relate the stories of some Bible characters who were well known for receiving guidance from God. Were they so special that God singled them out for special treatment? Or were they no different in essence from you and me, but a bit better at putting themselves in the right attitude to hear, and to act on what they heard?
We’ll start with one who is quite difficult for us to make this “just like us” kind of comparison. Not many readers are five hundred years old, and raring to get started on their next big DIY project which will last for 100 years or so, with no B&Q to fall back on. Noah was an amazing guy, but at the same time he was an ordinary get-on-with-it follower of God. Why did God entrust Him with such a task? He had most likely never seen a boat or even the sea.
What is the stand-out character quality of someone that God can speak to about building a vessel 450 ft long and 75 ft on the beam – more than twice the length of HMS Victory (which took the timber from 6,000 trees) in a hilly, arid and above all, inland area?
He was going to have a go at whatever God showed him to do, and stick at it, for the next century, anyway.
Because the written Bible we now have came down to us from an oral storytelling tradition, we often find repeated refrains in the stories which are used for emphasis – the equivalent of bold type, if you like. The story of Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6:5-9:17) has this one:
That “just as” is a key. I confess that on the occasions when Almighty God shows me something He would have me set about doing, I am too ready to reply with a “just let me think about it” or, worse, “just let me come up with an excuse”.
Who does God want to guide? Someone who is going to listen carefully. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and He walked with God (Gen. 6:13). He didn’t enter the ark until God told him to (7:1). Even when all around seemed to be dry, he didn’t come out until he heard from God to do so (8:15). But in this disciplined obedience, he was also supremely “ready for action”.
If we are ready – yes, really ready – not to question, but to do what God shows us to do, we are putting ourselves in a good place to hear Him and receive the guidance we want.