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.