"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path". Ps 119:105
MEN OF FAITH: Noah
Most people are familiar with the story of Noah and the Ark. Children in particular are often given books about Noah as gifts and even model Arks complete with a selection of animals that fit inside. Whilst the story itself is appealing to young and old alike, there is a deeper and more profound meaning associated with the central figure Noah. Indeed this man was a true man of faith, and the lessons of his life serve as warnings to those who live in this so-called enlightened age that we call the 21st century.
Noah - His Background
We are told in the book of Genesis that Noah was the son of Lamech. [Genesis 5.29] He was born around 2948 BC and was the tenth from Adam through the line of Adam’s son Seth. In the Gospel of Luke, we are informed that the Lord Jesus Christ was descended from the line of Seth. [Luke 3.36] Noah or Noe as his name is rendered in the New Testament, was a ‘type of Christ’ in his lifetime, exhibiting both faith in and obedience to God. Noah’s name means ‘rest’ and we are further told that he was 500 years old when he fathered three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. We see from God’s Word that Noah’s life and moral conduct greatly influenced his wife, their sons and daughters-in-law. They are not commended for their faith as Noah was, but they went with him into the Ark before the Flood and were ultimately saved from destruction.
The book of Genesis tells us that as the world’s population increased mankind became progressively evil and disobedient to God and the record tells us:
Nevertheless, this one man Noah stood out from all others at that time. His faith and manner of life contrasted dramatically with the lives of his contemporaries. God then commanded him to ‘Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.’ [Genesis 7.1 NIV]
Again in the Old Testament, it is recorded that ‘Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.’ [Genesis 6.9 NIV] It would seem from the Bible record that Noah was ‘one of a kind.’ To be righteous and blameless before God meant that Noah’s character and moral standing were totally different from those around him. If he walked with God then it is apparent that he understood the precepts and requirements of the Creator and with this understanding had developed a character that was pleasing to Him.
God’s indictment of mankind at this time was shameful and sad. In a relatively short span of time the human race had reached a point where they had become so wicked and corrupt that they were abhorrent in the Almighty’s sight. [Genesis 6.6] How telling that only one man stood out at this time, a shining light in a world that had become dark with the evil of mankind. Eventually there would be another who would walk in the footsteps of Noah – but his walk would be perfect and his character without flaws - his name the Lord Jesus Christ. He too was a bright light in a dark and degenerate age and an ‘Ark’ to those who would put their trust in him. Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary provided the way to save sinful men and women from the grave, just as the Ark saved Noah from the Flood. Belief and trust in Jesus gives faithful men and women the assurance that a way of escape from an eternal death is possible.
God Cannot Tolerate Evil
So great was the evil that man had perpetrated in the earth, it was necessary for God to annihilate His creation. How sad it is that with the fall of Adam and the introduction of sin into the world with all of its consequences, mankind, the very pinnacle of God’s creation would have to be destroyed. The Lord Jesus was mindful of these events when he spoke to his disciples just before his trial and subsequent crucifixion. In his teaching Jesus warned them and us that prior to his return to the earth and God’s judgement upon it, the world would be just like the world of Noah. ‘But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark.’ [Matthew 24.37,38] This warning is as pertinent for us today as it ever was; probably even more so as the return of Jesus draws ever nearer.
The times of Noah were not so very different from our own. We live in a similar world. People laugh at and mock at all those who endeavour to preach the return of Jesus. People carry on just as they have always done and Jesus foretold this would happen. Life today carries on much the same as it did before. As a result of sin, the wickedness of man has reached epidemic proportions just as it did in the times of Noah. Evil is very much the order of the day and sinfulness which is disobedience to Divine law, is accepted by the majority and not thought of as wrongdoing. Noah’s warning to his generation is much like the warning of Jesus to this generation - and it falls all too often on ‘deaf ears.’
Faith - A Godly Requirement
Noah was commanded to build an Ark to the Divine specification. Noah and his family would take refuge in this vessel from the judgement to come. We wonder what Noah must have thought when God told him that He was going to flood the earth and destroy mankind? Noah would not have known what floodwaters were, because we are told in Genesis that: ‘streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.’ [Genesis 2.6 NIV] It is evident that rain and especially floods had not yet appeared as part of the ‘natural world,’ and we wonder what would Noah make of the Almighty’s words to him?
Consider also Noah’s contemporaries, those who lived and worked around him. What would they make of Noah and his warnings to them about the impending disaster that was to come upon them all? Again, what of the Ark? Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Built to Divine measurements and requirements and filled with a large number of animals, how those round about Noah must have laughed and derided him. Yet it appears that Noah implicitly trusted God and followed the Divine commands to the letter. So great was that trust and commitment to God’s way, that Noah did not hesitate. He obediently carried out that which was required of him. Perhaps we can see how this man fulfilled the type of character that God desires in all His children, a child-like simple faith and trust that shines as brightly as the proverbial candle in the most dark and daunting of situations.
The Flood – A Type of Baptism
With the Lord God, there can be no going back upon His word once it is given. As we read in Isaiah: ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please...’ [Isaiah 55.11] The promise to flood the earth and wipe away all trace of man upon it, was fulfilled in a period of forty days: ‘And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.’ [Genesis 7.12] We note that in the Scriptures the number 40 signifies judgement and redemption. [Numbers 14.33; Luke 4.2] It is difficult to imagine just how terrified Noah and his little family must have felt inside the Ark. The waters rose higher and the great roaring of the deep and the rain were heard for many days. How they must have prayed day and night for strength and faith to endure the wrath of God that ravaged the earth outside. The words of the Psalmist come to mind: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.’ [Psalm 46.1-3]
No doubt this ‘man of faith’ also praised God for his family’s redemption from a watery grave. Safe inside the Ark, the world outside was covered with water and all that breathed air and walked on the earth were destroyed. The earth was symbolically cleansed from the sin of mankind and renewed by the washing of the flood sent by the hand of God. We read in the letter to the Hebrews that: ‘By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.’ [Hebrews 11.7] Thus it was by faith in God and trusting in His power to save that Noah and all his family were preserved. We are further told in Scripture that faith in Jesus Christ through baptism (the complete immersion of the body in water), offers us a way of escape from an ‘eternal death’: ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.’ [Mark 16.16]
Jesus can be our personal ‘Ark’ in whom we take refuge from the trials and tribulations of this earthly existence. Through belief in him followed by baptism into his death, following his example in our life, we too like Noah, can have the opportunity of eternal life when Jesus returns to the earth again. The Apostle Peter reminds us of the link between the events in Noah’s life and the salvation made possible through the work of Christ:
Yet if we ignore the warnings of Jesus, we do it at our own peril for like the generation in Noah’s time, destruction will come quickly upon the earth at Christ’s second advent as Peter again tells us:
In Noah’s day, the unbelieving sinner did not repent to his and her own cost. They did not get another opportunity. However, Noah and his believing family were saved by their faith in God’s promises. They took refuge in the Ark, underwent a symbolic baptism, stayed faithful to God through turbulent times when no doubt the strongest of hearts would have grown faint.
After one year when the waters had abated, Noah found dry land. The first thing he did in grateful thanks for his redemption was to offer up a sacrifice from one of the ‘clean’ animals that he had taken into the Ark. [Genesis 8.20] This greatly pleased the Lord God, who blessed Noah and his family and told them to: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.’ [Genesis 9.1] This great test of faith that Noah and his family had endured, was rewarded by God and reminds us of the loving kindness that He bestows upon all those who remain faithful and obedient children. [Hebrews 11.6] Afterwards the Lord promised He would not flood the earth again and we are reminded of this in the appearance of the rainbow. [Genesis 9.13-16] We can look with confidence when we glimpse a rainbow in the heavens for it reminds us that the promise of God remains sure: ‘For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.’ [Psalm 33.4 NIV] This being so, we can be even more assured that the promise to send His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ back to this earth, is as certain as was His promise to Noah so many years ago. [Acts 3.19-21]
The Final Warning
The story of Noah has much relevance in this present changing world and his ‘life story’ with all its experiences serves as a warning for this generation. God’s Word does not change and still powerfully echoes down the centuries, as relevant today as ever. Scripture plainly tells us that all the characters recorded in it can teach us many great lessons, firstly about God’s way and also about ourselves, if we but listen and take note of them. [Romans 15.4]
The people of Noah’s day did not listen and paid the ultimate price. Noah did listen and now sleeps in the grave alongside other faithful men and women, who await the return of Jesus Christ to the earth, the ‘call’ to resurrection and in God’s mercy, eternal life. [1 Thessalonians 4.13-16] The final judgements upon this earth will not be with water but with fire as we note from Peter’s words. There will be an ultimate cleansing of this world and it will be more dreadful than any that has gone before. The prophet Daniel foretold ‘ …a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then....’ [Daniel 12.1 NIV] Jesus also predicted this time when he told his disciples about the signs that would herald his second coming. He said ‘… nations will be in anguish and perplexity…Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world…’ [Luke 21.25,26 NIV]
Jesus has not yet returned, so there still is a little time left. Will you be like Noah and listen to God’s warning or will you be like the foolish men and women of his day who did not? The choice is entirely yours. We have been suitably warned by the example of faithful Noah – let us take heed and respond to God’s gracious offer of salvation while it is called today – tomorrow may be too late!