By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. Hebrews 11, verse 7.
Even unbelievers know the story of Noah. The account of Noah and the great flood is perhaps more famously known than even many stories about Jesus. God made a number of covenants with mankind, and the one he made with Noah was the second. God first ‘covenanted’ with man through Adam. The covenant with Adam consisted of blessings before and after the fall. In Eden, God promised to bless mankind; after Eden, God promised to curse the ground because of mankind while sending a redeemer to redeem mankind. Noah lived under that covenant, awaiting that redeemer…until the day God confided to him that He was going to wipe out all living things because of man’s sin. That’s when Noah’s faith had to kick in. So what exactly did Noah do by faith?
He built the ark. Some scholars think it took almost 100 years to build the ark. Up until the mid-1800s, Noah’s Ark, a craft of Biblical ‘legend,’ was considered to have been the largest ship ever made. Noah, his 3 sons, and their families worked for decades to build the ark that would protect living creatures from extinction. They did it based on a promise made by an unseen God. I get frustrated if it takes me longer than a few days to complete a project on my farm. Imagine how I would feel working on something, full time, for an entire century. Morning, noon, and evening, for days, weeks, months, and years…then decades. Imagine how Noah’s neighbors must have ridiculed him for what he was doing, all the more so when he answered “because God said so” when they asked him why he was building this thing out in the middle of nowhere.
He built the ark out of fear. Noah built the ark because God told him to, and Noah walked with God. He knew God and pursued God’s heart. To do that, like his ancestor Enoch, Noah feared God and respected Him. He understood his place as a man yet also his place as God’s cherished creation. A thousand or more years before Moses recorded Genesis, Noah listened to stories told by his ancestors about the Father’s indescribable power and love. Yes, Noah built the ark out of fear: a healthy fear born in love.
He had faith that God hadn’t forgotten him during the long days on the ark. Noah and his family lived on the ark, floating on the world-wide ocean, for nearly a year. Imagine how it must have felt hearing things crash up against the side of the ark. Think of how they must have felt to hear the muffled screams of people pounding to get in as the rains poured and the waters rose. Think about the somber loneliness when those screams stopped. I can’t imagine taking care of dozens, maybe hundreds of kinds of animals for all that time. Perhaps the eight people on the ark kept so busy that they didn’t have much time to think about it, but I imagine there must have been times on the ark when they wondered if God had forgotten about them. Noah probably clung desperately to his faith because that faith of 500 years had persisted through a century of building, and a year on the waters, and all through everything that happened afterward.
After the flood, when God caused the waters to recede and it was safe to leave the ark, God covenanted with Noah to never again destroy the world in a flood. God made Noah the heir of righteousness so that, through him, the world would eventually know redemption. Noah had faith that God would use all this to change things for the better. And that’s exactly what happened, even as it would take many generations before Noah’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, would come to make it so. These days, in America, the rainbow has been co-opted by the gay rights community as their ‘pride flag.’ Yet even this serves God’s purpose for He gave rainbows to the world as a reminder of his ancient promise to Noah: to love and sustain us and never again destroy the world in the way He had once done. What mankind would twist for his own ungodly devices our God is still overseeing for His better purposes. Perhaps that’s part of what kept Noah going all those years ago. Even unbelievers can understand that.
For further reading: Genesis 6:13-22, 1 Peter 3:20, Genesis 6:9, Ezekiel 14:14-20, Romans 9:30.
My patient Lord, thank You for the life and account of Noah. Thank You for the rainbow reminder of Your love.