Noah (Part 2): God is faithful through the flood

Without God’s grace on Noah and his family, you and I would not be here today. Remember, the reason God chose to save Noah is given in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah did not begin his life a blameless [6:9], righteous man [7:1], “walking with God,” but he began a sinner. The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who drowned in the flood was that God was gracious to Noah. God choose undeserving Noah to be an object of His grace. This is the first time in the grace appears in word form in the Bible.[1] God is so faithful to mankind despite their flagrant sin.

The time has come [Genesis 7:1-5]

God calls Noah to enter the ark. Final preparations from God arrive about the ark and the future flood. There are two very interesting items to note. First, God asks Noah to gather seven pairs of clean animals, and a pair of unclean animals. In God’s wisdom, the mixed genders of the animals give the ability for the animals to procreate after the flood, but what is the deal with the clean and unclean animals? At this point, there was no law [cf. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14:3-12], nor any recorded conversation with Noah concerning the difference between pure and impure animals. In the context of the first chapters of Genesis, I tend to lean towards the belief that the distinction of clean and unclean animals was for the purpose of sacrifice. Sacrifice and worship were already a big part of God’s created order [cf. 3:21; 4:3-5; 9:20ff].

Second, God’s patience for man’s sin extended for 1600 years [Genesis 5], He allowed 120 years for people to repent [6:3], but no one did. The time has come and Noah has only one week to gather two of every kind of animal.[2] This is totally an impossible task for one family to accomplish on their own, unless they have divine help [cf. 7:16; 2:19]. And again, Noah obeys all that God commands Him to do [cf. 6:22]. God’s sovereign rule and His expectation for man’s obedience run parallel to each other. God requires Noah to build the ark—taking 120 years—possibly showing the diligence of Noah’s obedience.

Put your feet in Noah’s Nike’s [Genesis 7:6-24]

Noah builds a big boat in a desert, for 120 preaches with no one listening only mocking, and God gives him 7 days to gather all the animals of the field and air before the flood walls burst [note: water came from above and below]. The decree of God comes to pass just as He promised. His sovereignty is displayed in His wrath against sin.[3] This is one of the most sobering passages in all the Bible. The destruction was all encompassing and annihilating to every living thing on earth [7:19-23], except for what was in the ark of His grace. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to celebrate your 600th birthday? I am sure Noah was flooded with emotion.

What would you be thinking? Could you image what Noah and his family was thinking as the storm clouds move in, as he notices neighbors and friends working the field, as he hears the voices of children and mothers in their homes, as they stand in the ark during the flood? “What about the other people who do not get into the boat? Is it fair that they are out there and we are in here? Has God left us alone? Will this boat stand the strength of this storm? Will we ever be able to get out of this boat? Will we have enough food?” We do not know what they were thinking, maybe fear, doubt, or loneliness.

I remember as a child, I would hide from my mother in the clothing racks while shopping. She did not like that very much. One time we were in JC Penny’s and I thought it would be fun to hide extra hard and extra long. So I hid in the center of a tall rack of jean. I could hear my mother saying, “Justin, where are you? Come out this minute!” I waited until I couldn’t hear her anymore. I peaked out from the clothes and she was gone. I was alone. For a split second, I was excited because I lost her, but then I was filled with fear because I didn’t want to live in JC Penny’s the rest of my life. I loved my mom and didn’t want to lose her. I searched throughout the store yelling her name, but could not find her. Until I heard a voice from above say, “This is the costumer service counter. Would Justin Hutts please report to the service counter immediately.” The voice said it again. I ran to the front of the store. There was my mother with a look anger mixed with an embrace of grace.

God has already shown Himself faithful. He is in the storm. His sovereignty is displayed as He fills the ark, He shuts the door on time, and He unleashes the flood re-creating of all He created. Holding the boat afloat and by His grace filled it with 8 people and enough animals to replenish the earth. God’s progress of redemption again takes chaos and shows His absolute control. The same language in Genesis 7 is used in the initial act of creation [Genesis 1; Note: Creation and Re-creation Comparison chart].

God Remembers Noah [Genesis 8:1-19]

Even in the floods of judgment, when God seems most distant to our eyes, He is faithful to remember His own [8:1]. Noah is not forgotten. God gives Noah a glimmer of hope amidst the stormy seas. The word “remembrance” is found twice in this passage and only two other times in Genesis in relation to God and man.[4] This word is used primarily to speak of a covenant God makes with His people, thus recalling a promise made by God to sustain man.  In Exodus, this word used again, as God recalls the covenant relationship between Abraham and His children as they are living in Egypt [Exodus 2:24; 6:5]. This is the kind of remembrance that God has for Noah and his family in the ark. God is faithful in carrying out His plan and executing His promises to Noah [cf. 6:18].

It only took forty days for the waters to rise and destroy the earth, but it took about 5 months for the waters reside.  What is Noah doing during this time? He patiently waits [8:10, 12]. How many of you would be willing to wait on God like Noah? How many of you when bad things happen with impatience plead with God for immediate relief? Noah simply waits. He waits for a word from God before leaving the ark [8:15, 18]. God speaks; Noah obeys. Noah knew God was at work. The rain stopped and the waters began to reside. Do you see the sovereignty and faithfulness of God at work? Do you see the rhythmic ebb and flow of the flood story?

In conclusion, the flood flexes the character of God as sovereign dealing with sin [death, Romans 3:23; 6:23], and faithful to His own through the flood. We are also confronted with the patience of God and how He is offended by sin. We are encouraged by Noah’s faithful obedience. Noah was particular, not partial, in following God’s instruction. ‘Cutting corners’ would mean the destruction of his family too. God expects lifelong obedience. Noah is an example to all of us not just of obedience but also the faithfulness of God in the midst of the fierce flood.

Questions for Reflections and Application: In light of Genesis 6:5-7 and 2 Peter 2:4-9 why did God send the flood? What does the flood reveal about the fate of those who continue in sin without repentance? According to Romans 3:21-28,  how is the Old Testament act of atonement ultimately applied to Jesus Christ? According to I John 4:7-21, how is Jesus’ atonement related to Gods love and ours?

[1] Later, Paul the apostle carries this word in his New Testament teaching on salvation ”by grace through faith alone”. Noah was a favored because God saved him by grace and he had faith in God alone.

[2] Is God just to send the flood? Yes. Why didn’t He give them more time? He gave them 1600 years, plus 120 years of warning, and 7 final days to turn. Why didn’t he send a preacher? He did. Noah preached for 120 years, but no one repented. He was the Billy Graham of his day. Why didn’t God let them sin? You would curse God for His injustice. Why didn’t God save them? He did. He had Noah build a boat. No matter all that God does to people still choose not to heed God.

[3] The flood was a day of judgment, which would be echoed in God’s prophets as they foretold the Day of the Lord,  “The prophets also appealed to the imagery of creation’s reversal to depict the day of the Lord’s judgment [i.e. Isaiah 24:18b; Jeremiah 4:23-26; Amos 7:4].” (cf. Bruce Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. 2001. 139.) This type of imagery is not seen until the end of time, which is prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

[4] Cf. 9:14-15; 19:29; 30:22; Exodus 2:24; 6:5; 32:13; 1 Samuel 1:19; Judges 16:28; Job 14:13; Psalm 8:4; 9:12; 74:1-3; 98:3; 105:8; 106:45; 111:5; Jeremiah 15:15.

Noah (Part 1): walking in obedience

If you grew up in Sunday School as a child [unlike me] you learned silly Bible songs about characters like Noah. Maybe you sang this song, “God told Noah to build him an arky, arky. God told Noah to build him an arky, arky. Build it out of gopher barky, barky. Children of the Lord.” Now there is nothing wrong with this fun song, but it is silly for kiddies. Today we are going to take a big boy and girl approach to God’s call to Noah to build the ark.

Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe

Before jumping into the life of Noah, let’s look at Genesis 5. This is an interesting chapter in the Bible that leads up to Noah. It’s a genealogy of men from Adam to Noah. If you like tracing your family tree you will love this chapter. The chapter covers a time span of 1600 years, which is almost the same amount of time covered in the remainder of the Old Testament. The primary theological purpose of this genealogy is to show that every generation and person descended from Adam were sinners who lived and died [cf. Romans 6:23]. Notice how the phrase “and then he died” lingers and looms like a dreadful chorus through the genealogy [cf. 5:5,8,11,14,20,27,31].

This genealogy includes two curious characters. First, Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old [5:27], which is possibly the Guinness Book world record for the oldest man to ever live. Second, Enoch, who is supposedly the only godly man w129ho lived during these generations [5:22-24]. Enoch “walked with God,” which means that he had a lifestyle of wholehearted worship and obedience to God. Enoch is the Bible’s first prophet who predicted the coming flood [cf. Hebrews 11:5-6; Jude 14-16]. Enoch is also the only man in the genealogy that did not die, but was spared from death [cf. Elijah, the only other man in the Bible that did not die]. The only way to avoid death and have eternal life is to “walk with God,” like Enoch. No better place to be than with God!

Now, we arrive to Genesis 6:1-9, which is one of the most controversial passages in the entire Bible. Here therein are posed four difficult questions: Who are the sons of God who marry the daughters of men? What is the meaning of 120 years? Who are the Nephilim? And why did God choose Noah to build the Ark?

Who are the sons of God that married the daughters of men? [Genesis 6:1-2]

Biblical scholars and theologians have argued two major opinions: First, angels had sex with women [cf. Job 1:6; Numbers 13, Ezekiel 28:11-17]. This theory collapses because the judgment for sin by the flood was upon people, not angels. Also, Jesus taught that angels do not marry or breed [cf. Matthew 22:30], and in the days of Noah people were simply marrying each other [cf. Matthew 24:37-39]. Jesus’ teaching follows the flow of context in Genesis 5 genealogy. The second opinion [that I embrace] is that the godly line of Seth had sex with attractive ungodly women. In other words, the sons of God—the line of the covenant people mentioned in Genesis 5—intermarried the daughters of men who were from ungodly families.

What is the meaning of 120 years? [Genesis 6:3]

In response to the sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of men [6:1-2], God limits their life to 120 years. There are two possible explanations for the meaning of this verse: First, God no longer allows people to live as long as they had previously [i.e. 300-900 years old] and determines that no human being would live longer than 120 years. An interesting factoid that supports this is Moses died at 120 [cf. Deuteronomy 34:7] and today the longest living people die around 120.

Second, God promised judgment by flood, but waited 120 years to give people an opportunity to repent. 1 Peter 3:20 says, “God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.” God is gracious because He gives mankind 1600 years, gives examples of people who walked with God, and gives Noah who preaches for 120 years [2 Peter 2:5]. No one repents or responds to God’s patience. 120 years gives Noah enough time to obey and build the ark, and after the 120 years the rains of judgment fell upon the earth.

Who are these huge Nephilim? [Genesis 6:4]

In short, we are do not know. In Numbers 13:33 the word Nephilim is used and also refers to an oversized race of people. This has caused scholars to speculate that the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4 are the same people mentioned in Numbers. Genesis does not say they were gigantic in size, but it does say they were gigantic in status, “They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” Therefore, the Nephilim could be a group of ungodly men in that day that reach celebrity status like the gigantic reputations given to athletes, rock stars, and media moguls in our day.

Why did God choose Noah to build the Ark? [Genesis 6:5-9]

Let’s be clear, God did not chose Noah to build the ark because he was sinless or better than the guy next to him. Sometimes teachers paint Noah to be this overly sanctified character living in an excessively wicked world. God does not just like good people and annihilate bad people. This teaching is contrary to the Bible’s story of redemption. What this introduction to Noah teaches is that every man is totally depraved. Other than Romans 1:18-27, the description of man given in Genesis 6:5-7 is one of the most sin-saturated images of man in all of Scripture. God gazes upon man’s pervasive evil and grieves that He had made man, which would include Noah and his family.

The reason God chooses to save Noah is given in Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah did not begin his life a blameless and righteous man, “walking with God,” but he began as a sinner. The only difference between Noah and the other sinners who drowned in the flood of judgment was that God was gracious to Noah. God choose undeserving Noah to be an object of His grace. The word favor [6:9] in Hebrew means grace. This is the first time in the grace appears in word form in the Bible. Paul the apostle carries this word in his New Testament teaching on salvation by grace through faith alone. Noah was a favored because God saved him by grace and he had faith in God alone.

The joy of obedience [Genesis 6:10-7:1]

Noah believes God; therefore, God shares with Noah His plan to judge sin through a catastrophic global flood. In His grace, God will preserve Noah, his family of six, and two of each animal on earth. To house this floating zoo, Noah is commissioned to build a huge wooden boat. It is the largest wooden ocean cargo carrier recorded in history. It has space for more than 500 containers. Compare that with the modern day Maersk Triple E that carries over 2500 containers.

Noah obeyed God’s commands and built the ark [6:22], probably with only the help of his three boys. In the hall of faith, Hebrews 11:7 says that Noah did so in holy fear as a man of faith who believed God would bring the flood even while others continued in sin without repentance. After completing the construction of the ark, Noah, his family, and the animals board the boat and wait for God to fulfill His promised judgment. God’s patience towards man’s sin runs out, but His grace runs strong through Noah’s Ark.

In conclusion, through the Noah narrative we learn many practical lessons concerning obedience. First, you are called to obey God in tough times [Genesis 6:1–9]. Despite rampant sin all hope was not lost. God’s grace is still available. Second, walking closely with God develops faith for an unsure future [11–13]. Noah believed God, walked with God, and lived contrary to the evil world around him. God makes the difference in Noah’s story. Third, obeying God will often require sacrifice and hard work [14–22]. Noah obeyed by building a big boat with mocking neighbors. Scripture gives no indication that Noah doubts God or wavers in his faith, no matter how long it took or how hard it was to obey. Obedience is to walk with God through wholehearted worship.

Rain is coming. Instead of raining water, it will rain fire. A final judgment day is coming [Revelation 20:7-15], when God will ultimately deal with the total depravity of man. God did not ask you to build an ark like Noah, but He does ask you to obey in faith and bring people to the ark He provides—through His Son—Jesus Christ.