First Things First – How the World Came to Be
13. Noah's Ark: A Picture of Salvation (1)
Genesis 6: 9 – 13, 22
The story of Noah and the Ark is more popular than ever before. Even people who don’t know the Bible and never come to church know about Noah, his big boat, and all those animals coming in 2 by 2. 2 giraffes. 2 lions. 2 snails inching forward slowly. 2 rabbits. 2 parrots. Even 2 skunks! Most people know about the great flood and how the boat floated until the waters receded. Then the animals departed 2 by 2 by 2. Finally the rainbow appeared and God gave his promise never again to send a great flood that would cover the entire earth.
Learning the Right Lessons
There are 2 ways to approach this familiar story –
1. Focus on the controversial issues - What was the extent of the flood? Did it really cover the entire earth? How large was the ark? How did Noah get those animals into the ark? How did Noah and his family keep the ark clean with all those animals inside? Those questions are useful and important and I hope to answer some of them.
2. If we concentrate only on the controversial elements, we risk missing the larger message. If we stop there we will miss the larger spiritual lessons the Lord intends for us to learn. It is worthwhile to enquire about the civilization that perished, but the emphasis of the text is not on those who died, but on the one family that survived. That’s where we need to focus our attention. How did Noah and his family escape the terrible judgment of the flood?
1. Noah: The Man Who Built the Ark
A. He was a Godly Man v. 9
He believed in God and took his Word seriously. He was not a doubter or a skeptic. Like Abraham who would follow him many generations later, Noah believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness. His faith produced in him a lifestyle that was so categorically different from his contemporaries that he seemed blameless by comparison. Here was a man who walked with God and knew him intimately. Noah didn’t merely know about God, he knew God and walked with him on a daily basis. This is a high honour since he and Enoch are the only 2 men in the Bible who are specifically said to have walked with God.
B. He was a Family Man v. 10
We know that Noah was married and that he and his wife had 3 sons, and each son was also married. Noah was the head of his household and the spiritual leader to his wife, his sons and his daughters-in-law.
C. He was a Unique Man v. 11, 12
These verses are placed here to stress the contrast between Noah and his generation. “Corrupt” means rotten, putrid or utterly foul. It describes a world in the final stages of moral decomposition. Having rejected the Lord, the men and women of the world had sunk into a deep pit of violence, hatred, abuse, murder, dishonesty and every ugly expression of the depravity of the human heart. If we are honest with ourselves, we all think things that we would never dare to speak aloud (nor should we). The heart is wicked beyond belief. But in civilized society, many evil thoughts are left that way—as thoughts, never to be mentioned or spoken or written or acted upon. In the days before the flood, evil thoughts became evil words that ultimately led to acts of unspeakable atrocity, brutality, lust and perversion. The unthinkable became thinkable, then speakable, then doable. Finally the unspeakable was done openly and praise was given to those who did it openly.
In the darkness of those days, 1 man stood out from the crowd. Noah was a bright shining light in the prevailing moral darkness.
In an impure world, he was pure.
In an unrighteous world, he was righteous.
In a world that dismissed God, he walked with God.
He stood alone, believing God, building the ark, no doubt receiving much abuse, always confident that God could be trusted and that the flood would someday come to the world. If his friends called him “Crazy Noah,” it did not bother him. Or if it bothered him, it did not stop him. He stood his ground, and God noticed.
D. He was an Obedient Man v. 22
His obedience was complete: He did everything the Lord commanded.
His obedience was absolute: He did everything just as the Lord commanded.
Nothing halfway. There was no “Well, I think I’ll build 2 decks instead of 3” or “I think I’ll use oak instead of gopher wood” or “Let’s make it 350 cubits instead of 300 cubits long.” He didn’t try to bargain with God about all those animals. Because he believed God when he said a flood was coming, he had no reason to question the design of the ark or the need to provide space for all the land animals. God said it and that settled it for Noah.
E. He was a Bold Man 2 Peter 2: 5
He wasn’t just a builder who knew how to construct an enormous boat. He wasn’t just a godly man who let his life speak for him. During the 120 years before the flood, Noah built the ark and he also preached righteousness to his own generation. I’m sure he warned them of judgment to come and invited them to join him in the ark. But no one seemed to listen. Perhaps they were too busy to pay attention. After all, it seems as if no one had ever seen rain before. Certainly no one had ever seen a worldwide flood before. Why should they take Noah seriously?
Jesus made a direct comparison between the days of Noah and the days preceding his return to the earth. As it was then, so it shall be again. The past is the key to the future. Go back to Noah’s day and what do you find? Widespread unbelief and skepticism, a generation that had no time for the Almighty. Killing and violence on a daily basis. Human life was cheap. Sexual perversion was the rule of the day. Better yet, there were no rules. Men and women did as they pleased, and the result was a putrefying mess of evil so sickening that God decided to start all over again. On one level it was “business as usual,” on another level it was “sin to the nth degree.” That same combination of moral corruption and “business as usual” will be the order of the day when Jesus returns.
We do live in dangerous times, don’t we? The world has certainly changed. We’re all on the front lines now.
He Saved His Own Family
That’s the sort of world Noah lived in before the flood. A world where violence was the rule of the day and no one could ever feel completely safe. How did Noah manage to save himself and his family in such a negative environment? We are not left to wonder about the answer - spelled out for us - Hebrews 11: 7. This is a powerful verse. We can break this verse down into 4 smaller statements that help us see what Noah did:
1. He believed what God said.
2. He built an ark to save his family.
3. He rejected the corruption of the world.
4. He and his family were delivered from destruction.
First, he believed. Then he built. In so doing he rejected the ways of the world. As a result, he saved his own family. While others mocked him, he and his boys worked year after year, building that massive ship. Day after day they lugged huge pieces of gopher wood and put them carefully into place, one plank at a time. For decades no one knew what it was, but then it began to take shape. Eventually the ark was completed and the days drew near for the flood. Finally the rains began, the animals arrived, and Noah and his family entered the ark together. Then the door was shut, the floodwaters rose, and the ark lifted Noah and his family to safety. How did he do it? “By faith!”
Here is a message especially for all the men. Fathers, listen up. Sons and brothers, pay attention. Husbands, be careful. Single men, take notice. All men and all boys, listen. Noah was a righteous man who had great faith in God. His faith saved his entire family. What about the faith of his wife or the faith of Shem, Ham or Japheth or their wives. They must have had some faith. How do I know that? When Noah entered the ark, his wife went with him. When Noah and Mrs. Noah entered the ark, their boys went with them. When the boys entered the ark, their wives went with them.
I don’t know how much faith they had, but they had enough to follow the head of the family. Noah had enough faith to inspire all of them to follow his example. That’s the power of a godly leader. Noah’s faith saved his entire family. He believed so deeply and obeyed so completely and walked so intimately with God that it was natural for his entire family to do what he did. They believed because he believed.
This is the power of a godly example. It is also the power of a godly husband and father. Men, God holds you accountable to set the pace for your entire family. Your wife looks to you for leadership. Your sons and daughters will be like you, for better or for worse. If you abdicate your responsibility, your wife will never be able to fully take your place. If you live out your faith every day, it’s natural and normal to expect your family to follow in your steps.
A Father’s Wise Words
Now for all of us, men and women alike, take heart from Noah’s example. You can be godly in a very ungodly world. Let’s stop complaining about the evil of the present day. As bad as things are, they were worse in Noah’s day. Back then, there were only 8 true believers in the whole world. We have far more spiritual advantages than Noah had. All we need is the courage to do what Noah did and to believe what God has said.
Noah was a godly man in an ungodly age, a bright light shining in the darkness. Because he had character and obeyed God when the world thought he was crazy, he ended up saving his own family. God bless him. God bless all those who follow in his steps. Let there be no complaining about how hard things are. No excuses about how evil the world has become. Be a man of character. Be a woman of conviction. Stand on the Word of God and don’t worry about what the world thinks. You’ll save yourself, and by God’s grace, you may save your family and many others besides.