|Noah speaks to a crowd of people. In the background we see the ark with pairs of animals getting inside. Image source.|
A little girl with long, black hair ran up to Terah and Ham. "Daddy, the dog took my doll," she said.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" Ham stood up and went to get his dog. "Fluffy! Come!"
Fluffy came to him sheepishly and dropped the doll at his feet.
"Do you want to throw the ball for her?" Ham asked Terah's daughter. "She just wants to play."
The girl picked up Fluffy's ball. Fluffy turned her head and stared in anticipation. When the girl threw the ball, Fluffy jumped up and ran to retrieve it.
Ham sat down next to Terah again.
"Sophia's a really smart kid," Terah told him, proudly. "She's always asking us questions about how things work. Very curious. And she loves your dog."
"Yeah," said Ham, "Fluffy's really good with her."
"Hey, do you want to have dinner with us tonight? My wife said she's cooking lamb."
"Tonight... no I can't tonight," answered Ham. "I have a worship meeting with my family."
Wow, thought Ham, this is my chance to tell him about God. "So, every week we get together and sing songs about God, and talk about God's teaching."
"Oh, okay," said Terah.
There was a pause, as Ham wondered what to say next. He decided to go for it. "So, umm, what do you believe about God?"
"Me? Yeah, I believe in God."
"So... what do you think God wants us to do?"
"Well, pretty much everyone believes God wants us to be good, help people, you know, that stuff."
"But how will God judge us? How do you know if you're good enough? What's the standard?"
"Uh... most people are pretty good. I'm not worried about it."
"So... do you think God is personally involved in people's lives?"
Terah tilted his head. "I don't know. Maybe sometimes."
"Hmm," said Ham. "Would it be okay if I tell you what I believe?" His heart pounded.
"Well," Ham began. "God created us and wants to have a relationship with us. But he can't because of our sin- everyone sins, and it separates us from God- he's too perfect to be in the presence of sin. So... someday there will be a flood, to punish sin, and we all deserve to die. But God loves us too much to allow that, actually, so he sent an ark to save us from the flood. The ark takes the punishment for our sins so we can be with God. So... yeah and we don't earn our salvation- there's no good works we can do to make up for our sin and earn God's love- we just have to accept the free gift and get on the ark."
Maybe he had said it all too fast. Oh no, what would Terah's reaction be? And Ham felt a little embarrassed telling Terah we all deserved death.
"Ah..." said Terah. "But I don't think God would do that. How can he punish us with a flood for sinning- everyone makes mistakes. It's normal."
"Well, yeah, if you compare yourself with other people, it's easy to say 'I'm not as bad as them, I don't deserve to die.' But there has to be a standard. You can't compare to other people, you have to compare to God. And God is perfect."
But Terah didn't see it that way. Ham knew that he couldn't convince Terah in just one conversation. But he was glad he had the chance to share the gospel.
That night, after everyone else had gone to sleep, Ham prayed for Terah. "God, help him to see the reality of his sin and his need for you." He really really wanted Terah to be safe, to accept God and join him on the ark. And wasn't it great that God had given him an opportunity to share the gospel? God is so fantastic. "Your love never fails, your love never fails," Ham prayed.
Another time, Ham tried to convince Terah that everyone has a God-shaped hole in their heart. Terah didn't agree. He said nobody's life is perfect, regardless of which god they follow.
Ham wasn't sure how to respond, so he asked his wife, Zedkat.
"Yeah, it's really sad... God loves us so much, and God wants the best for us, but so many people want to be in charge of their own life," said Zedkat. "You know, some people try to fill that void with work, or family, or pleasure, but none of those things can really satisfy us."
"I know," said Ham, "but I don't know how to convince him."
"Let's keep praying for him. And Ham, honey, I'm really proud of you, the way you share the gospel with the lost. You just have to keep following God's leading. It's not your job to change hearts, that's God's job." She gave him a hug. "And maybe you can ask Shem for advice, if Terah has harder questions."
Two days later, he found Shem and was eager to get his advice. "I've talked with Terah about God many times, but it doesn't seem like I'm making any progress. He believes in God, but he seems to think sin isn't a big deal- he doesn't think God will punish sin."
"Have you talked about the concept of holiness? God has to send a flood and punish sin because God is perfect and holy," Shem said.
"Well, yeah... I talked about how God is perfect, I didn't use the word 'holy' though..."
"And what did he say about that?"
"He doesn't get it- he just said God loves us and God wouldn't do that."
"Hmm. Okay, first of all, you should agree with him on the 'God loves us' bit. It's good to find common ground first. But you have to talk about how God's love coexists with God's holiness. And ask him about if he would be okay with it, if people could commit crimes and escape punishment because 'oh, we LOVE them.'"
"I don't know if that will work though," said Ham.
"Well, really it's not about what you say- it has to be God's spirit working to change him. Definitely make sure you keep praying for him. And let me know how it goes."
"I will. Thanks." And as Ham left, he prayed that God would open Terah's heart to the truth. Oh, if only Terah knew how much God loved him. "Your love never fails, your love never fails," Ham hummed to himself.
That's how it continued for a while. Ham kept praying for Terah. When God gave him an opportunity, he would try to mention something about the gospel. And when he couldn't do that, he worked hard to be a good friend to Terah. To show him God's love.
One night, Ham had a certain feeling, and he wondered if it was from God. He felt that he knew, somehow, that tomorrow would be the day that Terah's heart would finally be opened and he would know that he needed God, and he would feel the depth of God's love for him. Ham was nervous, but excited.
As Ham and Fluffy walked to Terah's house, Ham tried to relax and pray. He hoped he would know what to say. He hoped he could see God's power. Wow, it would be great. "Your love never fails, your love never fails."
He arrived and knocked on the door. Terah appeared, looking exhausted. "Oh," he said when he saw Ham. "Sophia's sick. She was awake all night. I've just managed to get her to go to sleep." Ham looked over to where the girl was sleeping. Terah sighed. "I don't have time today, sorry."
But what about the gospel? Ham wondered. Hadn't God said today would be the day? Maybe he had heard God wrong. Well, he would try to talk to Terah anyway and see if God gave him the chance. "Maybe I could sit and talk with you while you take care of her?"
"No... I don't want Fluffy in here, she'll wake her up," said Terah. The whole time, he had been blocking Fluffy from coming inside. She wagged her tail and pushed against him happily. "I have to cook something for Sophia, and I have to clean up."
"Okay... I hope she feels better soon," said Ham.
"Thanks. She'll be okay. I'll see you next week, probably."
Ham pulled Fluffy away from Terah and started to walk back home. Why hadn't it worked? Why didn't God give him a chance to show love and share the gospel?
He thought of Terah's face, with his overwhelmed and exhausted expression. Oh, Ham suddenly realized, he said he was up all night. Why didn't I care? And he was working so hard to help his daughter, and ... I didn't even think about that.
Ham walked home deep in thought, hardly paying attention to Fluffy, who was full of energy like she always was. What have I done, he thought. I wanted to show God's love, and I didn't even see the love that was right there, the way Terah loves his daughter. He's always like that, always so kind to his wife and daughter, and I never saw it because I thought everyone is sinful and deserves death. But Terah... he... (Ham couldn't believe he was about to say it) ... doesn't.
Ham's next thought truly scared him: Terah doesn't have a "God-shaped hole." He's fine. His family is fine. They're just normal people. Good people. They're fine without God.
Fluffy ran up to Ham and presented a stick. She looked at him expectantly. But Ham just stood there, staring into space. Why had he been trying this whole time to change Terah? There's nothing wrong with him.
To be continued...