And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. (Genesis 5:3~8)
The Raven that Flew Till the Waters Dried
Genesis chapter 8 talks about the raven and the dove from the flood of Noah. This story is teaching us something extremely deep about our spiritual life. Have you ever felt that your spiritual life was difficult and hard? Most people, when asked, say, “Spiritual life is difficult and hard, and I have no confidence.” When they are asked about golf, they enjoy golf, and they are confident. They are also joyful when they are about to play soccer or some other sport, but when speaking about their spiritual lives, they have no confidence, their faces darken, and they feel extremely uneasy. Why is this so? Is spiritual life truly difficult and painful? We can find the answer to this through the dove and the raven.
When the flood ended and the waters began to retreat, Noah sent the raven out to see how much the water had retreated.
And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were abated from the face of the ground. (Genesis 8:7)
We do not know how much time had passed after the raven went out from the ark and when the waters were abated, but the raven flew around for a long time because there was no dry ground on which it could land. How difficult and painful that must have been! It could rest peacefully if it returned to the ark, but it did not do that. The raven must have thought on its own as it left the ark.
“Of all these other birds, why is he sending me? It must be because of my greatness. I have strong wings and I can fly for long periods of time. That’s why. The dove and the other birds cannot fly that long, but I can fly for a long time.”
With the pride to believe that it was better than other birds, the raven began to fly with this heart to exalt itself. “I have awesome wings. That’s why I can fly for a long time.” Even so, if the raven had to fly to and fro until the waters abated, how painful would that have been? In the beginning, the raven could fly well, but wouldn’t it become tired and pained? Later on it would think, “My wings hurt so much. I can’t take it. When will the waters dry up and the land appear?” and would go on exhaustedly.
However, what did the dove do? The dove could not see the ground even though it flew to and fro, and thought, “My only place of rest is the ark,” and returned quickly. Upon receiving the dove, Noah thought, “The dove coming back must mean that there is still much water out there. There was no land the dove could dwell upon.” It seemed that dove could not fly well, but the dove pleased Noah’s heart. It seemed that the raven flew well, but it did not accomplish what Noah intended.
When I Fully Realized My True Image
I went to church ever since I was young, but spiritual life was extremely difficult and painful until I met Jesus and became born again. There were so many things I had to do as I lived my spiritual life. I had to go to church on Sundays, tithe, not commit sins, do good things, fast and pray. . . . There were so many things that had to be done and I began to do them thinking that I had to. But just as the raven had confidence in the beginning and began to wear out and could not go on any longer, my spiritual life, too, wore out.
“But I am a little more proper than other people. I went to church zealously. I almost never skipped a Sunday service and I tried to keep the Ten Commandments.”
At the time, it seemed in some ways that my faith was better than those around me. At first, my spiritual life went well and was good, but it began to grow tiring after some time. It was not going so well. I had to keep the Ten Commandments, but I could not. At first I thought, “I can keep the Ten Commandments. I don’t drink; I don’t smoke; and I don’t commit any special sins. I am good and can keep them,” and I tried to keep the Ten Commandments. I tried to live according to the words of the Bible, but that was something so tremendous I could not achieve it. Think about it. If the whole world were covered in water and the only place not under water was the ark and you had to fly around to and fro until the waters were abated, how tiring and difficult it would be! That was my spiritual life.
One day, I realized, “I cannot do it!” Before, I thought that if I tried not to sin and desired to live a godly life, I could. Then, I had looked only to my will and determination. I did not have the eyes to see how filthy and dirty my being was. Thus, when it was just me trying, it seemed that I was doing well, but I later saw that I could not keep the Ten Commandments when I tried to completely keep them. I have never murdered anyone as the Commandments tell us not to, but the heart to hate people endlessly arose inside of me. When I met people, I smiled and greeted them happily, but inside of me, the heart of hatefulness endlessly arose in me. The Bible says that those who hate commit murder in their heart. I had never actually committed adultery, but in my heart I had a lustful heart many, many times. I had actually stolen several times, but in my heart, I coveted other people’s property many, many times. I had also lied, etc.
Objectively put, it was not that I had broken one commandment among the ten, but I came to realize that there was not a single one I had kept. It seemed that I was keeping them when I was trying half-heartedly to do so, but when I checked closely one by one, I saw that I had committed so many sins. I committed murder, adultery, and theft in my heart along with lying. Only then did I realize that was the kind of person I was.
How happy the raven would have been if it realized that it could not fly any longer. Then it would have immediately returned to the ark. But it had to fly around until the waters abated if it did not realize this. How tiring that must have been. But the dove was not that way. When Noah sent it outside the ark, the dove said, “There is no end to this. My wings will break, and I’ll die if I keep flying,” and returned to the ark. It was truly peaceful in the ark.
This story is not just a story about the raven and the dove, but a story about our spiritual lives.
Spiritual Life Is not Making an Airplane but Riding It
I meet with many people and give them spiritual counseling. Most people say that spiritual life is difficult and boring. They are living the spiritual life like that of the raven. Spiritual life is truly easy. Your view of spiritual life is wrong if you think that it is difficult. Think about it. When we go long distances, is it easier to walk or ride an airplane? It is extremely comfortable if we take the plane. But if you had to build the airplane yourself, put fuel in it, and then fly it, would it be easy or difficult? If you had to do that, you would not even think of taking the airplane. If you had to do this, you could not live.
We cannot make an airplane. That is why we do not even think of building an airplane, but pay for seats on an airplane that has already been built. Then it’s very easy and comfortable. Spiritual life is not you laboring to make an airplane yourself, but it is riding on an airplane that has already been made since you cannot make the airplane. On the other hand, the wrong spiritual life is like you trying to build your own airplane.
When God made us, God wanted us to live a life of faith. God knew that it was impossible for us to do well in becoming perfect. God gave us the law not so that we would keep the law to gain perfect righteousness, but since man was acting so proudly, God said, “Fine, let me give you the law and see how well you keep it,” and gave the law. Thus, you quickly realize that you cannot do it when you try to keep the law. Then you should give up. However, you go on, saying, “But I can still keep it.” Then it becomes a spiritual life like that of the raven, difficult and painful.
Although I am a pastor, this is how I often pray.
“Lord, I cannot pray well. I cannot fast well. I cannot keep the commandments of God well.”
No matter how much we try to keep God’s commandments, filthy and evil things fill us completely and flow out from us, making the keeping of God’s commandments impossible. Therefore, trying to do well in order to be recognized and go to heaven is like the raven and is not true spiritual life.
I too, at first, tried to be loyal myself and keep the law to please God and go to heaven. With such a thought, I lived my spiritual life. But God bestowed His grace upon me and I fell into true despair. Nothing went well; I fell into sin. Through this, I experienced my efforts to serve God falling apart.
“Ah, I am truly an evil human being! I am dirty! I should be cursed!”
Then, for the first time, the thought to believe in myself and the thought that I could do well completely crumbled down in my heart.
“God, I cannot keep the law! I can only go to hell! God, please have compassion on me!”
What Jesus, the Representative of Mankind, Has Done Is What We Have Done
When God told Abraham, “I will greatly multiply thee,” blessing him, God did not say, “I will bless you if you do well.” God could not say to Abraham, “I will bless you if you do not sin.” It was because God wanted to bless Abraham. If God had spoken to Abraham that way, then God could not bless Abraham if he ever lied. Thus, God, who knew Abraham’s weakness, did not say, “I will bless you if you do well,” but simply said that He would bless him.
Spiritual life is also the same. If you try to be loyal, keep the law, and work at spiritual life, it is so difficult and tiring. That is the spiritual life of the raven. The dove flew a few circles, knew that it could not fly any longer, and returned to the ark. It realized that it was not perfect and re-entered the ark. This was pleasing to Noah. When the dove came back the first time, Noah knew, “Ah, the waters are not yet abated.” The second time, the dove came back with an olive leaf, Noah then felt, “Now the trees are emerging.” And when the dove did not return the third time it was sent out, Noah knew, “Ah, now it is habitable out there.”
Spiritual life is not done through you trying to do well. If you could be good, keep the law, and please God, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? If you could do well, there is no need for Jesus to die on the cross. You can live spiritual life because you are unable to do it.
“God, I cannot wash away the sins I have committed. If you wash them, I will be clean. God, I cannot defeat sin. I sin every day and can only commit evil, but if you cleanse me, I can lead a clean life. God, I will be holy if you sanctify me.”
Going to heaven does not depend upon your effort, labor, or works. Although you are completely unable to do anything, it can be done through relying on Jesus. Countries participating in the World Cup tournament hope to advance to the round of 16’s. For this, who is it that must do well? It is not that all citizens of a country must be good at soccer to win. If the representing players win, then that country wins. Soccer matches are not played by every citizen of the country, but only the representatives play. If the representatives play well and win, then the whole country wins, even if the rest of its citizens are all lame. If the representatives lose, then that country has lost even though its citizens may be excellent soccer players. An aged grandmother with an aching back says, “Oh, my aching back!” but also says, “My country has advanced to the round of 16’s at the World Cup.” Is it because this grandmother is a good soccer player? Since the representing players are doing well, it is the same as the citizens of that country doing well. What the representing players have done is accepted as what the citizens have done. That is why the citizens cheer for the representing players.
That is the relationship between Jesus and us. Our going to heaven is not through our good, righteousness, effort, or will, but through Jesus who is our representative. God made Jesus our representative. Just as the dove could not fly any longer and returned to the ark, we, too, enter Jesus and say, “God, I cannot do it. So God, accept me upon seeing Jesus, who is my representative.” This is how we go to heaven. People without a spiritual life try to do well on their own in order to go to heaven. They do not accept what Jesus has done. But people of true spiritual life deny what they have done and accept what Jesus has done as their own.
We can go to heaven not through our righteousness, but through the righteousness of Jesus. The death of Jesus on the cross is the same as your death. Jesus died for you, and thus, the righteousness of Jesus has become your righteousness. The holiness of Jesus is your holiness. Therefore, we become one with Jesus and become strengthened by Him to go to heaven. However, people who live their spiritual lives the wrong way try to go to heaven through their doing well. They live spiritual life like that of the raven.
What Kind of a Spiritual Life Are You Living?
At one time, as I went to church, I felt that spiritual life was extremely difficult. Later on, I found out that it was not a true spiritual life. Spiritual life is believing in Jesus because you cannot do it. Since I went to church, I thought I believed in Jesus, but I tried to do everything myself. Jesus came to this world because we cannot do it, but if you try to do that which you cannot, how tiring that is.
I often say before God, “Lord, I cannot keep the law. I cannot pray well. I cannot read the Scriptures well. I often commit sins. I make mistakes. Therefore, do not look to me, but look to Jesus Christ. Do not look to me, but look to Jesus Christ who was crucified for my sins and accept me.”
That is spiritual life. Therefore, I became one with Jesus at heart.
Loving folks, what kind of spiritual life are you living? Even today, are you trying to do well yourself and keep the Ten Commandments and go to heaven through those efforts? Then it will be extremely difficult, wearisome, and painful. However, if you do not rely on your works but have the faith to believe in Jesus, your spiritual life will be very peaceful and joyful. Receive what Jesus has done as your own. Jesus has given all the good He has done unto us, so accept them as your own. Jesus lived holy for 33 years on this earth without sinning, was crucified, and resurrected. He gave this entire life of His to us. The sinless life He lived, His holiness, His goodness. . . . All that God is pleased of, Jesus gave unto us. It is as though we had accomplished all of that. On the other hand, all the sins we committed were taken by Jesus to the cross where He was crucified.
Again, spiritual life is not you being loyal and good. It is leaving yourself completely to Jesus. It is receiving what Jesus has done as your own and accepting the goodness of Jesus as your own goodness. Therefore, although you are weak and have sinned and have broken the commandments, it is not a problem when you go to heaven. It is because you are not going forth with your own righteousness, but the righteousness of Jesus.
Even if we cannot fly well, when we have the spiritual life of the dove, resting peacefully in the ark, true rest comes to us, making us overflow with freedom and joy.