Dr. James T. Naismith of Peterborough, Ontario, a physician and Bible teacher, continues his series in Genesis. Copyright by Everyday Publications, used by permission.
The story of Noah (Gen. 6 to 9) may be considered historically, prophetically, typically, evangelically and practically. In our studies, the practical lessons we can learn from these great examples of faith, who lived before there was a written revelation from God, are our primary concern. It will be profitable, however, to consider some other aspects of this familiar Old Testament story.
Few portions of the Scriptures have been subjected to more critical contempt than the chapters narrating the Flood. We take the stand that the record of Genesis 6-8 is an account of actual historical fact. The Scriptures — both in Genesis and elsewhere — make it clear that the Flood was of universal extent, covering all the high hills (mountains) that were under the whole heaven, Gen. 7:19, and destroying every living thing … which was upon the face of the ground — man, beasts, reptiles, birds, Gen. 7:23. It was an evidence of divine intervention in judgment, because of the wickedness of man, Gen. 6:1-13. In His mercy, God saved one family — Noah’s — eight people in all, from whom humanity is descended.
Our assurance of the reliability of this record is based on:
A. The Infallibility of the Word of God. Genesis 6-8 is part of all Scripture … given by inspiration of God, 2 Tim. 3:16.
B. The Authoritative Statements of the Omniscient Son of God, who, by His reference to Noah, the flood and the ark, has made it impossible to believe in Him and reject the Genesis record of the flood. See Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27.
C. Corroborative References by other writers of Scriptures inspired by God: e.g. Isaiah (54:9); Peter (1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5; 3:5, 6).
D. Confirmation by Human Traditions. Hundreds of traditions found in every part of the world include the recollection of a universal flood. Many of these are found among American Indians and tell of the building of a great ark which saved men and animals from destruction and finally landed on a mountain. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh epic contains the Babylonian flood account which parallels the Genesis account even in matters of detail. Such traditions do not prove the accuracy of the Biblical record, but they confirm it. The absence of such traditions might have been “a weighty objection to the veracity of the Biblical account.”
E. Geological Studies. In their excellent book on “The Genesis Flood,” John C. Whitcomb Jr. and Henry M. Morris have “clearly shown that the Bible teaches a unique Creation and subsequent worldwide Deluge, and that the major facts of geology and other sciences can be satisfactorily oriented within this framework.”
The flood is one of the supreme examples of God’s judgment in the past. Peter in 2 Peter 3:5, 6 presents it, as a foreshadowing — and, in-deed, proof — of His judgment in the future. In the past, by water; in the future, by fire. The Lord Jesus, too, in His reference to the flood —Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27 —used it as a warning of the sudden, unexpected nature of His future coming as Son of man. He pointed out that the conditions that preceded the flood are a parallel to those that will obtain at the time of His Coming.
If the flood is an evidence of God’s intervention in judgment, and prefigures His coming judgment upon men, then the ark is a very beautiful type of the provision He has made for the salvation of those who, like Noah, by faith are obedient to His command and entrust themselves to the Shelter He has provided in His Son. Notice that Peter draws attention to this type in 1 Peter 3:20, where he says that Noah and his family were “saved through water” — and we today are saved “by the resurrection of Christ” (v. 21). The Lord, like the ark, has exhausted the billows of divine judgment, having passed through the storm when He died on Calvary, and, by His resurrection, has arrived safe on the other side — securing all who are “in Christ.” Note, too, that in 2 Peter 2:5, Peter states that God “saved Noah” while the ungodly perished in the flood. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word “kaphar,” translated “pitch” in Genesis 6:14 (and the corresponding noun “kopher,” also translated “pitch” in this verse) is never used for “pitch” elsewhere in the O.T. It is the word commonly used for “atonement” — seventy times; it is also translated “cleanse” (1); “forgive” (2); “be merciful” (2); “pardon” (1), “purge” (8), “reconcile” (3), “make reconciliation” (4), etc. Just as the pitch covered the ark and protected those inside from the waters of judgment, so the blood that made atonement covered those who offered it from the judgment of God. The blood of Christ, to which those sacrifices pointed forward, protects us from divine judgment.
The story of Noah and the ark has been a source of many good Gospel sermons. Among other things, we can see in this narrative:
1. Divine Condemnation upon human sin, in the flood.
2. Divine Salvation from the flood of judgment — in the ark, provided by God, and offering the only hope of safety. It was large enough for all who would avail themselves of its provisions; it is protected from the flood by itself bearing the storm — all very suggestive of God’s provision in Christ.
3. Divine Invitation — Gen. 7:1 — the first of its kind in the Bible — corresponds with the invitation of the Saviour today, Matt. 11:28.
4. Divine Preservation. The safety of Noah and his family was not dependent on their ability to swim when the rain subsided, but on their being inside the ark. So our eternal security is based on our being “in Christ Jesus,” Rom. 8:1.
Noah’s name is included in two great honours lists. In Ezekiel 14:14, 20 he is named, with Job and Daniel, as an outstanding example of righteousness. In the New Testament his name is third in the Hall of Fame of Hebrews 11, as an example of faith. Like Job and Daniel, he stood out from the men of his time in his faithfulness to God and won God’s approval and commendation. The background to his life is given us in the first half of Genesis 6, which paints a very black picture of “wickedness,” “evil,” “corruption” and “violence” — of such a degree as to bring upon man God’s wrath and judgment in the form of a flood. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, v. 8. What a contrast to the moral darkness that abounded on every hand! And what an example to us who live in days parallel to his, just prior to the coming of the Lord in judgment! We shall look at five characteristics of his life that should speak to us in our day:
A. Faith, Heb. 11:7.
As in the case of Abel and Enoch, Hebrews 11 gives us the secret of Noah’s life, the reason why he pleased God, Heb. 11:6, and found favour in God’s eyes, Gen. 6:8.
1. Its Foundation. The Word of God. He was “warned of God of things not seen as yet.” “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” Although there had apparently been no rain before (Genesis 2:6 seems to indicate the means of watering the ground), Noah believed God would do what he had never seen —because God said He would.
2. Its Demonstration. “Prepared an ark.” Faith not only believes God’s word, but also obeys God’s command. God said to Noah: Make thee an ark, Gen. 6:14, and Noah showed his faith in God’s word by obedience to His command. See Gen. 6:22; 7:5, 9, 16 and note how absolutely he obeyed — According to all that God commanded him, so did he.
3. Its Vindication. His preservation through the flood was God’s vindication of the faith that implicitly trusted and obeyed Him. His faith was vindicated, and the unbelief of “the world” was condemned. But more: because of his faith, he became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Like Abraham —and us — his faith was reckoned to him for righteousness, Rom. 4:9.
B. Fear, Heb. 11:7
Trusting and obeying God in a godless environment, Noah evidentally had no fear of men, however much they would scoff at him. But he feared God, and he who fears God need not fear men. “Moved with fear” — this was the impelling motive of his faith — godly fear, reverence for God.
1. Its Causes. No doubt Noah’s fear of God arose from the evidence of God’s power and wisdom in creation, and the knowledge of His holiness and yet His mercy, revealed in God’s conversation with Noah, Gen. 6:13-22.
2. Its Characteristics. The fear of the Lord has been defined as “that affectionate reverence by which the child of God binds himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.” It is manifested:
(a) Negatively: “to hate evil,” Prov. 8:13. This evidently characterized Noah, for he was a just man and perfect in his generations, Gen. 6:9.
(b) Positively: “to keep His commandments,” Eccl. 12:13. See Gen. 6:22.
3. Its Consequences. The Scriptures abound in promises to those who “fear the Lord” — of mercy, satisfaction, protection, deliverance, etc. For Noah, the fear of the Lord brought favour, salvation and deliverance.
Noah not only trusted God: he was one whom God could trust. His faith in God, resulting in faithfulness to God, was seen in three ways:
1. His Walk. “Noah walked with God,” Gen. 6:9. Noah shared the honour of having these words said about him with only one other person — Enoch. He probably lived in circumstances similar to Enoch’s, amid ungodliness and wickedness, yet he lived quite differently from his fellows. He was “perfect in his generations,” Gen. 6:9, or “blameless in his time” (NASB). He chose the companionship of God rather than the world.
2. His Work. He “prepared an ark” — what a task! The ark has been described as “a gigantic barge” with a gross tonnage of about 13,960 tons, “Which would place it well within the category of large metal ocean-going vessels today”; three decks with a total deck area of approximately 95,700 sq. ft. (equivalent to more than the area of 20 standard college basketball courts); a volume of 1, 396,000 cu. ft. and a carrying capacity equal to that of 522 standard stock cars as used by modern railroads. It may well have taken 120 years to build, (Gen. 6:3), and all this time without evidence of rain and the coming flood to justify the work. Yet Noah continued. How faithful he was!
3. His Witness. Peter describes Noah as a “preacher of righteousness,” 2 Pet. 2:5. What a difficult subject — righteousness —especially in his circumstances; it certainly required faithfulness in life to continue to preach it! What an unsuccessful preacher! No converts outside his own family.
The strength of Noah’s faith and faithfulness all these years, in spite of all the difficulties, lay in the fact that he “walked with God.” His fellowship with his Creator influenced every stage of his life;
1. Before the Flood — Separation to God from the wicked, ungodly world. He was uncontaminated by unholy men because he lived close to a holy God.
2. During the Flood — Security by God from the flood of judgment.
3. After the Flood — Sacrifice to God — Gen. 8:20-22 — that brought pleasure to God as did Noah’s life before the flood, v. 21. This is the first mention of “altar” in the Bible. It was
(a) an expression of gratitude to God for His deliverance,
(b) a recognition of sin and the need for sacrifice for sin, and
(c) an expression of consecration of life.
The offerings Noah offered were “burnt offerings,” in which “all” was “burnt on the altar” (Lev. 1:9), expressive of complete devotion to God.
E. Failure. Gen. 9:20-23.
The faithfulness of the divinely inspired account of Noah is seen in the record, not only of his faithfulness, but also of his failure. Like Elijah, he was a man subject to like passions as we are, and we can learn, not only from his good example, but also from his sad failure:
1. Circumstances. This story is not taken from his early life, but when he was at least 601 years old — after a commendable life of faith and faithfulness, after many years of experience with God, after evidence of God’s judgment and salvation in the flood and ark.
2. Characteristics. Intemperance and Immodesty.
3. Conclusions. The record of Noah’s failure surely teaches us that, however faithful we may have been, however closely we have walked with God, however long our life of devotion to Him, however great our experiences of His deliverance, we still need to exercise constant care, realizing that the flesh is ever with us.