A Conversation with the World’s Oldest Man – learning to let go in the midst of disaster

[An imagined conversation between Methuselah and Noah.]

“There is room,” Noah said. “We will MAKE room.”

“I am not to go, my grandson,” Methuselah replied. “You know that.”

“God did not say you cannot join us.”

“And he did not say I can. You and your family are the ones chosen to enter the ark, to care for the animals. To survive this …” His voice gathered strength. “This judgment.”

“Are you to be judged too, Grandfather?”

“I do not know God’s judgment of me. But I am to die without entering your boat. Besides, are you sure it won’t leak and lay stuck on the ground as the coming waters cover the earth?”

“Of course! I followed all of God’s instructions, from the wood to the sealing pitch. It is perfectly safe and …” Noah stopped as he heard his grandfather chuckling. “You are teasing me at a time like this?”

“It is good to have a laugh in times like these, Noah. Remember that as you speak with grandchildren of your own one day.”

“It would be even better for you to remind me when I have those grandchildren on my knee as you once held me.”

“That is not to be.”

Noah turned away and muttered, “You seem so sure.”

“Of course. Why else would your great grandfather Enoch have named me so prophetically, to announce to the world with my birth that with my death there will be an event worthy of note?” Methuselah looked down at his wrinkled hands extending from his robe’s sleeves. “Although I wonder if even my father knew how noteworthy it would be.”

“I never met him.”

“Yes, he lived a shorter life on this earth than most.”

“But you told me he did not die.”

“And so he didn’t. God took him to be with him in the heavenly realms rather than taste death. That was just a few years before your birth.”

“He escaped death!” Noah had almost shouted the words, then caught himself and lowered his voice. “Why not you?”

“This is all in God’s hands, Noah. My father knew God and walked faithfully with him. Perhaps I have not been so faithful.”

“But that’s not true. You’re more than …”

Methuselah held up his hand. “You must stop. God told you it is time to get in the ark, that in seven days he will send the rains to cover the earth. I will be covered as well.”

“How can I enter the ark shut up safe with every member of my family but you?”

“You can do it because God has commanded it of you. His ways may seem impossible, but if he has command it then he has also provided all you need.”

Noah looked at his own hands. “Yes, I have the physical strength to follow his orders. But do I have it in me to see this to the end?”

“You will know,” Methuselah said, “at the end.”

“And so I am to leave you out here to drown in judgment?”

“You must leave me here. This is the prophecy of my father: when I die, it will come.”

“Stop speaking of your death.”

“Why? I have now lived longer than anyone we have ever known, or even ever heard of. Who’s to say when I shall breathe my last?”

“You will die in the floodwaters!”

“Do you know that? You and your family are to enter the ark today. They are already waiting inside for you so they can seal the door with that pitch you’ve saved for the last.”

“And you are out here, waiting to DIE!”

Methuselah smiled once again. “I thought we weren’t supposed to speak of my death.”

“You know what I mean.” Noah threw his hands up.

“I do. You mean you love me. You are a good grandson. Now come embrace your grandfather before you climb that ramp and enter your boat.”

Noah did as bid, and shook as a sob escaped his lips.

“I will not tell you not to cry,” Methuselah whispered into his grandson’s ear. “There is much to weep over, including our parting. But I am mindful that I might not die in the floods after all.”

“You mean God will take you into heaven without tasting death, like your father Enoch?”

“No, I must die. That’s the prophecy. But it is with my death that this comes. I suspect I might just die before the clouds gather and the first raindrops fall. While you are all shut up in that ark with those animals – the smell, Noah! – I will be out here in the fresh air enjoying the sunshine. And then I shall breathe my last.”

“You seem pleased, I must say.”

“Of course. God has planned this from before my birth. This is a good way to die.”

Noah renewed his embrace. “You are stubborn.”

“It is good to be stubborn in following God.” He pushed Noah away to arm’s length. “Now go. Your family is waiting.”

Noah climbed the ramp and stopped at the top, turning back to face his grandfather. “And you?” he called.

“I will be fine.” Methuselah sat on a rock and raised his face to the sun. “I have a feeling I will be seeing my father soon.”

Noah closed the door and sealed it with pitch.

***

Doing the math: According to the genealogy of Genesis 5, Enoch was 65 when Methuselah was born. Enoch lived on earth for 365 years but instead of dying he was taken up by God because he walked faithfully with him. (Genesis 5:24.) Methuselah was 187 years old when Lamech was born. Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born, making Methusaleh 369 at the birth of his grandson. He lived a total of 969 years. (Genesis 5:27.)

Genesis 6 and 7 speak of the ark’s purpose, with Noah finding favor with God and therefore being chosen to build it. He, his wife, sons, and daughters in law were all to shut themselves up in it along with the animals they would care for. The floodwaters came when Noah was 600 years old. (Genesis 7:6.)

Since Methusaleh was 369 years old when Noah was born, that made him 969 years old – the year of his death – when the waters flooded the earth. Did he die in the flood? Did he die before? The Bible does not say. But one translation of the name Methuselah is “man of the dart” while another is “when he dies it will be sent.” (New World Encyclopedia.)

Why did Enoch give him this name? Whether it was prophecy of God sending something on Methuselah’s death or that he was like a dart or lance, the name suggests judgment of a sort. I came up with this dialog between Methuselah and Noah not to represent the actual last days of Methusaleh but rather to provoke thought on God’s ways of working in people’s lives throughout the ages. This happens still today.

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7 Responses to A Conversation with the World’s Oldest Man – learning to let go in the midst of disaster

  1. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    I really enjoyed this, Tim. “His ways may seem impossible, but if he has command it then he has also provided all you need.” I wonder if, as he sealed the door, Noah felt he had passed a test or failed a test. Either way he had to leave that in God’s hands.

  2. Superb conversation, Tim. We leave a great deal in God’s hands. (At least, I try to. I don’t always succeed.)

    • Tim says:

      One of the most freeing moments is when I finally realize to let go of things I’m unable to deal with and realize God’s totally able to deal with anything.

  3. FW Rez says:

    “It is good to be stubborn in following God.” I would like to hear the aria that Handel would have written for this line had he incorporated your dialogue into an Oratorio on the life of Noah. Methuselah’s part would have definitely been for a bass. Perhaps his word painting would have featured long whole notes over each syllable of “stub-born” while the strings articulated anxious 16th notes, denoting the coming storm. In other words, great quote.

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